Consumer Electronics: Do You Blu-ray?

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More than a year ago, tech journalists declared that Blu-ray had officially won the high-definition video format war with HD DVD. The war was fought ferociously, with Toshiba and Microsoft backing HD, while Sony, Panasonic, a consortium of consumer electronics companies and Hollywood sided with Blu-ray. And in July 2009, fifteen months after admitting defeat and in the true “if you can’t beat them…” style, Toshiba announced that it will produce its own Blu-ray player.

DVDs captured the imagination of the wider public almost as soon as they appeared in the last decade of the twentieth century. In the blink of an eye, DVD players won the place of honour in all tech-savvy homes. The new technology had such obvious advantages over the old video tapes it’s no wonder that the home-proud individuals resorted to begging, stealing or borrowing just to obtain a DVD player (see the film “One Night at McCool's” for proof).

Incidentally, the DVD technology narrowly escaped being caught up in a draining war thanks to several industry players who practically had to twist the arms of the two main rivals (you’ve guessed it – Sony and Toshiba were in opposing camps even then) to make them opt for one single DVD format.

But that was the time when the disastrous video-format wars were still fresh in the collective memory. Apparently, forgetfulness took over when it was time to substitute the DVD technology with the next big thing, the high-definition video format. As a result, a two-year war of formats ensued.

And how is the victorious Blu-ray doing in terms of making inroads into our homes?

Well, for one, no movie has yet been made that commemorates the infatuation of the public with Blu-ray players.

As for the rest, those in the know remain noticeably divided when evaluating the success of the new technology. Some say that the Blu-ray victory was a Pyrrhic one, with devastating cost to the victor. They claim that, even if the current economic woes are taken out of the equation, the protracted war has stalled the industry and worn thin the initial enthusiasm for high definition video.

Others say that the new technology is doing well sales-wise, citing the data that shows that the Blu-ray dual-layer machines are being adopted faster than the similar DVD machines were in their time. According to them, Blu-ray has entered its mass-market phase, with the pricing falling off considerably in comparison with one year ago.

Judging by the optical devices section, which is part of the bidorbuy Electronics category, Blu-ray players are holding rather well in the face of the still predominant (and cheaper) DVD players.

And as for the discs themselves, a visit to many a video rental shop in Gauteng confirms that movies recorded on Blu-ray discs are quickly supplanting the movies recorded on DVDs. Consequently, you may have to watch “One Night at McCool's”, with a protagonist who idolises DVD players, on a Blu-ray player.

Some Blu-ray Facts:

  • Physical size of the disc: same as DVDs and CDs (12cm or 8cm in diameter).
  • Digital size of the disc: up to 25 GB per single layered, and 50 GB per dual layered disc (about six times more than a DVD).
  • Colour matters: while DVDs rely on red laser to read and write data, the more precise blue-violet laser is used for Blu-ray. Hence the name.
  • Main uses: for storing PlayStation 3 games, high-definition video and data.
  • Major nuisance: pre-recorded Blu-ray discs may not play reliably across the range of Blu-ray players.
  • Another major nuisance: just like its pre-recorded DVD predecessors, pre-recorded Blu-ray discs may come with region codes that restrict the geographical areas in which they can be played.
  • Blu-ray players can have Ethernet connections for accessing the internet and downloading firmware updates.
  • The country with the highest market penetration of Blu-ray technology is Japan. About half of the home optical devices in Japan are Blu-ray; 70 percent of them are recorders, and the rest mere players.


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