Wednesday, December 28, 2005

In Blu-ray vs HD-DVD Debate DRM is the Only Issue

Blue-ray vs. HD-DVD is a hot topic these days. Recent blog discussions have included posts that discourage Blu-ray adoption because Sony is promoting the standard. Other posters suggest that people stop "harping" on Sony's recent DRM debacle and not let it be a factor in the decision to support Blu-ray. That's like saying we should have ignored Watergate, Enron and the UN's Oil for Food Scandal, because:

  • A) Other people were doing it too
  • B) They promise to not do it again
  • C) It really didn't harm me.
As for me, this was the first Christmas in years that I bought Zero (0) Sony products as gifts. Until I see some high-level (VP or greater) firings/"resignations" at Sony, I will continue to boycott their products and urge my family, friends and clients to do the same.

This being said, the functional differences between Blu-ray and HD-DVD are going to be invisible to most potential users. After all, how many consumers understand or care about the difference between DVD+R and DVD-R today?

A huge barrier to the rapid adoption of either standard will be content vs. cost. What type of content exists to drive either standard? Individual movies fit comfortably on a single DVD. Currently, the only reasonable purpose for greater video capacity would be for storing a series of related video titles, such as a complete season of a particular show or all the sequels of a movie. Although this might appeal to Star Trek and Harry Potter fans, the average consumer probably won't decide that this is worth the $500 - $800 price premium vs. a top-of-the-line multi-format DVD unit. After all $800 buys a LOT of DVD movies!

For most Small to Medium sized Businesses (SMBs) the extra data capacity won’t make a difference either. Most companies in this category generate far less archive-eligible data each year, than the 17GB available on a dual-layer, double-sided DVD. With the continual drop in cost-per-megabyte of RAID storage, many SMBs will find themselves replacing their servers before they run out of room! The rapid growth of broadband and economy of scale offered by online backup/storage vendors like Novastore is going to make it a much more attractive alternative than either tape or optical backup for the SMB users.

Here is the bottom line: Hollywood and other content producers want to replace current DVD formats to further their DRM ambitions. Consumers are NOT likely to invest in a technology that offers them less choice for 10x the price. SMB’s don’t need the extra cost or features and will likely embrace on-line backup and archive technology because it doesn’t depend on the same week link as tape, namely who changed it last!Until we have a truly compelling content-driven reason (3D Home Movies?) for the extra capacity offered by either Blu-ray or HD-DVD, both technologies are likely to languish for the next 3-5 years. By that time, someone will have figured out how to store 100G on a holographic crystal with no moving parts that costs less than $100.00 and comes pre-loaded with ALL the Star Trek movies / series ever produced! Now that’s something I’ll buy!