Being on the forefront of technology (or at least reading about it) brings me to a lot of blogs, articles, websites, and the like that all seem to say the same thing, “Physical media is dead” and they have all started saying that downloaded content is the way of the future. I have discussed this before but I think it might be time to revisit the issue since I have recently moved into the HD world.
A couple of weekends ago, I purchased a 720p Samsung plasma television and with it my interest in watching high definition content has increased drastically. Probably to my wife’s annoyance. One of the first things I did was download an HD copy of the latest Battlestar Galactica episode online so i could watch the episode in high definition since Comcast here in Houston does not get the SciFi channel in HD. I have a modded Xbox running Xbox Media Center so I figured that this would be a no brainer: just make sure I can access the file from the Xbox and I’d be able to watch one of my favorite shows in high-def without too much trouble. WRONG.
You see, the Xbox isn’t powerful enough to play the download file (which was an MKV file). This wasn’t because the content was high definition but rather because the MKV file format (while excellent for HD content) takes a lot of computing power to decode and play. This means that if I want to watch shows that come on HD channels that Comcast doesn’t give me access to, I have to take an extra processing step in order to watch them. And yes, I do know how to get the MKV file into an AVI file.
The point here is that I know what I’m doing. I know how to research and find ways to get my files to play without issue. But even I have to jump through hoops. And I only spent around $100 dollars total to get my XBMC setup (used Xbox plus extras needed to do the hack). Most Home Theatre PCs (HTPC) cost as much as an actual computer, but they’ll play most files and come with a nice media center frontend (usually Windows Media Center). Most average consumers are not going to spend that extra money just to play downloaded movies on their TV when they can simply buy a DVD or Blu-Ray disk.
Point is, the average consumer likes simplicity when it comes to a home theater setup and especially when using it. They are not going to worry about codecs and downloads when they can go buy a Blu-Ray player and some Blu-Ray discs and get the same thing. They don’t have to think about it as much. Downloading movies is one thing, getting them to play on your big screen in a nice resolution is another issue entirely. In 5-10 years however this could be a different world. But with most cable internet providers limiting the amount of data you can download monthly, the whole digital distribution for HD content starts to become even less attractive.