Do we actually need a disc? Blu-Ray’s future uncertain

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Do we actually need a disc? Blu-Ray's future uncertain

Las Vegas (NV) – At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last January, Warner Brothers made the decision to withdraw support for the HD-DVD video disc, thus delivering the future of at-home entertainment to the rival, Blu-ray format. With the recent advent of high-speed, on-demand movies available in 1080p via Internet downloads, can a new, expensive physical disc even remain viable?

At this year’s CES, which officially begins on Wednesday, a recession looms over the event as consumer spending is lower than ever. Over 2 million square feet of space will be jam-packed with the hottest and trendiest mobile phones, mp3 players, flat screen televisions, computers, digital cameras and, oh yeah, Blu-ray products.

Blu-ray will be a major source of attention this year as for the first time it gets to have the floor all to itself, having won out over HD-DVD.

The future of this disc format hangs on this year’s interest. After the holidays, which brought deep price discounting and electronic prices over all, declines in Blu-ray player sales have forced retailers to reduce their prices even more. Some now sell for under $200. This price cut makes these players affordable for many, but undesirable for their makers.

The manufacturers of these devices are facing a huge number of individuals who feel that the window for a high-definition disc format might be coming to a close. Discs in general are becoming obsolete as the Internet begins to make high definition video streaming available, and even now directly to your television.

“The Blu-ray format is in jeopardy simply because the advent of downloadable HD movies is so close,” said Roger L. Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates. a research and consulting company told the New York Times. “Streaming video from the Internet and other means of direct digital delivery are going to put optical formats out of business entirely over the next few years.”

Currently the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is predicting that North American consumers will spend $1.3 billion on Blu-ray players in 2009. Americans are still expected to purchase more standard DVD players next year than Blu-ray players. This is due to lack of knowledge and education on the new device, said the CEA.

Blu-ray will be hard to sell in this troubled economy. CES will give Blu-ray the opportunity to push the device. Manufacturers will be introducing new players and announcing price cuts on older models. Companies will also be debuting products and support for the BD Live feature which allows people to download additional material from the Internet and interact with friends via television while watching movies.

In the end though, and regardless of hype and gadgetry, the economy may have the final say. Consumers will be spending more and more of their money on basic necessities if the recession continues and fuel prices ever rise again. Many consumers may find that while they like entertainment, the older DVD format is enjoyable, costs much less, and even works on that local garage sale TV bought for $5.

In short, with instant gratification from video on-demand and more cost-effective alternatives, Blu-ray may soon be singing the blues.