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Old 01-12-2008, 06:28 PM   #1  
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Arrow BLOG: Mark my words, Sony may well regret its victory in the video disc war

From The TimesJanuary 12, 2008

Mark my words, Sony may well regret its victory in the video disc war

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Sathnam Sanghera: Business Life

Forecasting a 1992 general election victory for Neil Kinnock wasn’t a highlight. Neither was the attempt to persuade an uncle to buy a BSB “squarial” instead of a Sky dish in 1990.

Indeed, the nadir of my futurology career came even earlier, in 1989 when, having spent an entire school lunch hour listening to my Walkman, I placed the headphones over the ears of my best mate and remarked: “She’ll be the biggest singer in the world one day. Mark my words.”

The singer was Debbie Gibson. So when Warner Bros, the film studio, announced this week that it had plumped for Sony’s Blu-ray in preference to Toshiba’s HD DVD in the battle to become the standard format in the next-generation video disc market, I saw an opportunity for redemption. I would, I decided, try out both formats and predict how things would pan out.

However, after half an hour of alternately watching The Mummy Returns on a £249 HD DVD player and Behind Enemy Lines on a £399 Blu-ray machine in the Peter Jones department store, a problem transpired: there appeared to be no difference between the two formats.

Andrew Lim, the assistant demonstrating the gadgetry, must have sensed my befuddlement because he suddenly remarked: “To be honest, they’re pretty much the same. They run at the same resolution, carry the same audio. The only difference is that Blu-ray has more storage space and is more expensive to produce.”

An entire morning spent sifting through hundreds of articles on the subject didn’t help to divide the formats either.

If anything, Blu-ray and HD DVD began to appear even more indistinguishable in the light of the discovery that early Blu-ray discs will be limited to half their 50gb storage capacity, and the declaration of a stalemate a few months ago by Sony boss Sir Howard Stringer.

Unfortunately, “can’t decide” isn’t, technically, an opinion and as developing one was the point of the exercise, I’m throwing caution to the wind to make four predictive assertions regardless. The first is that the Financial Times’s John Kay was wrong when, in April 2006, he somewhat timidly remarked: “If you want to place a modest wager, I would put it on Toshiba.”

Things are different now and you could bet your house and family on Sony winning the format war. Blu-ray is not a massively more impressive product, but history has taught us that the best man does not necessarily win a standards battle: Betamax was better than VHS and Apple was better than Microsoft.

Moreover, this is a war that will be resolved by executives, not customers mooching around department stores. Blu-ray has a critical mass of studios backing it and that will drive others to line up behind the format.

However, and here comes the second forecast, despite Blu-ray’s imminent victory, decades from now there will still be some nerds banging on about the superiority of HD DVD.

Should you think this unlikely, I proffer this incredible fact from the Los Angeles Times: Sony abandoned its Betamax product line only in 2002. That’s six years ago. And some twenty years after it lost the war against VHS!

As you read this, there is probably someone somewhere watching Police Academy 6 on Betamax, just to make the point that it offers better picture quality than VHS.

Which brings me to my third forecast: none of the above will make a difference to many of us.

High-definition bores are hard to avoid: they corner us to prattle on about the difference between LCD and plasma, or 720p and 1080i. They claim the leap in technology is as significant as the switch from black and white to colour, and rave that new screens allow you to monitor Jonathan Ross’s blackheads from 50 yards away.

What these enthusiasts don’t realise is that most of us: (a) don’t want to see Wossy’s spots; (b) think standard DVDs offer good picture quality already; (c) don’t follow technological developments obsessively.

I’m thinking here of how only 28 per cent of people over the age of 65 have home internet access against a UK average of 57 per cent, and of my mother who has only just discovered the compact disc.

At the other end of the spectrum, I fear early adopters won’t care either as they are already, or will soon be, on the next big thing: digital downloads.

Indeed, my fourth bold prediction is that Blu-ray’s victory will be a hollow one. It is assumed that the winner will inherit a multibillion-dollar industry but Sony may actually struggle to recoup its development costs if the ultimate dream of couch potatoes comes true and high-definition movies are delivered directly into the living room.

The outcome of the format war could be another illustration of the “last gasp” phenomenon outlined by Daniel Snow in this month’s Harvard Business Review. Professor Snow observes that when superior technologies emerge, old ones don’t just fade away: “Their performance often leaps suddenly, thereby extending their lives and slowing the adoption of new technologies.”

It happened with sailing ships when steam-powered vessels were developed, with steel versus aluminium bicycle frames. The optical discs versus digital downloads battle could be another example. Sony should heed the warning that there is a danger in “mistaking the last gasp as sustainable improvement. This can lead companies to overestimate the prospects of their products, overinvest in trying to enhance them, and wait too long to switch to the new technology.”

In other words, Sony faces a paradox: the impending success of Blu-ray could be bad news for the company because it will distract it from the real task of developing digital download systems. Blu-ray might well turn out to be the worst thing that ever happened to the Japanese electronics company. Mark my words.
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http://business.timesonline.co.uk/to...cle3174760.ece
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Old 01-12-2008, 06:34 PM   #2  
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Interesting read...Im very interested to see how this Netflix/LG setup box rolls out and its impact, since netflix itself has already taken a huge bite out of sales.
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Old 01-12-2008, 06:38 PM   #3  
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I thought this was interesting:

Quote:
The outcome of the format war could be another illustration of the “last gasp” phenomenon outlined by Daniel Snow in this month’s Harvard Business Review. Professor Snow observes that when superior technologies emerge, old ones don’t just fade away: “Their performance often leaps suddenly, thereby extending their lives and slowing the adoption of new technologies.”
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Old 01-12-2008, 06:47 PM   #4  
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you could bet your house and family on Sony winning the format war
Sounds a little strong coming from someone so little read on the situation. It weakens my opinion of the rest of the piece.
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Old 01-12-2008, 07:26 PM   #5  
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Originally Posted by bruceames View Post
Sounds a little strong coming from someone so little read on the situation. It weakens my opinion of the rest of the piece.
I disagree. We have known for quite some time that Sony was playing the game of "bet your company" when it came to BD. When you look at a war and proclaim; "We win or we die" your success rate is MUCH higher than those that do not - Toshiba.

"Don't bring a knife to a gunfight" is a great adage to describe the format war and the combatants.
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Old 01-12-2008, 07:35 PM   #6  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lee Stewart View Post
I disagree. We have known for quite some time that Sony was playing the game of "bet your company" when it came to BD. When you look at a war and proclaim; "We win or we die" your success rate is MUCH higher than those that do not - Toshiba.

"Don't bring a knife to a gunfight" is a great adage to describe the format war and the combatants.
I'll keep that in mind.
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Old 01-12-2008, 08:44 PM   #7  
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Thats what I've always said, Sony sacrificed the PS3 to save Blu Ray. (actually, I stole that from someone else, but I don't know who)
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Old 01-12-2008, 09:50 PM   #8  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lee Stewart View Post
I disagree. We have known for quite some time that Sony was playing the game of "bet your company" when it came to BD. When you look at a war and proclaim; "We win or we die" your success rate is MUCH higher than those that do not - Toshiba.

"Don't bring a knife to a gunfight" is a great adage to describe the format war and the combatants.
Sean Connery - The Untouchables (1987)
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Old 01-12-2008, 10:10 PM   #9  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lee Stewart View Post
From The TimesJanuary 12, 2008

Mark my words, Sony may well regret its victory in the video disc war



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http://business.timesonline.co.uk/to...cle3174760.ece
Words marked. But I don't think downloads are the future if what we get can't equal HDM disc in picture and sound quality.

If downloads go mainstream, BD will become the LaserDisc of the HD era.
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Old 01-12-2008, 10:33 PM   #10  
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Digital downloads ?

Yeah some. And someday a lot.

Today's buyers are trained to purchase discs.

dxr

Last edited by doctorxring; 01-12-2008 at 10:36 PM..
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Old 01-12-2008, 10:40 PM   #11  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doctorxring View Post

Today's buyers are trained to purchase discs.

dxr
I'm one of them
I guess I'm weird but I like being to hold the media in my hand yep I'm stuck in the 80s/90s I don't even own an I Pod still only listen to CDs why should movies be any different
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Old 01-13-2008, 12:10 AM   #12  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bruceames View Post
Sounds a little strong coming from someone so little read on the situation. It weakens my opinion of the rest of the piece.
I agree. Though the read was great. Interesting perspective for an opinion.
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Old 01-13-2008, 12:26 AM   #13  
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Thanks for the link.

Quote:
[...]
Which brings me to my third forecast: none of the above will make a difference to many of us.

High-definition bores are hard to avoid:
they corner us to prattle on about the difference between LCD and plasma, or 720p and 1080i. They claim the leap in technology is as significant as the switch from black and white to colour, and rave that new screens allow you to monitor Jonathan Ross’s blackheads from 50 yards away.

What these enthusiasts don’t realise is that most of us: (a) don’t want to see Wossy’s spots; (b) think standard DVDs offer good picture quality already; (c) don’t follow technological developments obsessively.

I’m thinking here of how only 28 per cent of people over the age of 65 have home internet access against a UK average of 57 per cent, and of my mother who has only just discovered the compact disc.

At the other end of the spectrum, I fear early adopters won’t care either as they are already, or will soon be, on the next big thing: digital downloads.
[...]
He, as he seems to be part of the "us" group that doesn´t care about HiDef, thinks HD is a "bore". I will therefore not mark his words.
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Old 01-13-2008, 01:01 AM   #14  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IlovemesomeHD View Post
I'm one of them
I guess I'm weird but I like being to hold the media in my hand yep I'm stuck in the 80s/90s I don't even own an I Pod still only listen to CDs why should movies be any different
I agree also. I like all my movies on something I can touch. I feel more secure that way!
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Old 01-13-2008, 01:16 AM   #15  
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I have heard that 4 out of 5 top technology experts out there predicted that digital download and pay per view(from cable companies) will over take both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. According to the census out there, most people can't tell the difference between over the air and cable/satellite HD picture quality vs. Blu-Ray or HD-DVD ones. And as many people here in this very forum has stated, most people can't tell the difference between upconverting DVD player vs. HD-DVD/Blu-Ray. I have to admit that most people here are considered "early adaptors" and seem to have "higher set of eyes" than most average joes. This is the first time I have ever jumped on a "new" technology and even to me, I can't tell much difference between cable HD pictures and over the air HD pictures. I however do see significant improvement with the HD-DVD/Blu-Ray but not a "world" of difference. HD picture is HD picture I say. Maybe I am wrong but I do believe most people don't see major PQ/AQ improvement of these two formats to invest in them, at least not at the moment with all the confusion over the format war. I guess my point is that there is a good chance that both format will fail. I am just hoping it doesn't because despite the danger of that I am planning to buy BD player soon.
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