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Blu-ray Prognosis: Samsung gives Five Years to Live, BDA says Life Eternal

by September 17, 2008

Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) founding member and hardware manufacturer Samsung doesn’t see much of a lifespan for the nascent Blu-ray optical disc format, but the format’s cheerleaders over at the BDA claim the optical disc is as ubiquitous as paper and predictably give the format a long, healthy life.

In a recent interview with Pocket-lint, Samsung’s UK Director of Consumer Electronics, Andy Griffiths doesn’t put much faith in the staying power of Blu-ray and expects it to be replaced by another format or technology in the coming years.

"I think it [Blu-ray] has 5 years left, I certainly wouldn't give it 10."

- Andy Griffiths, Director, Consumer Electronics, Samsung UK, via Pocket-lint

DVD, the immediate predecessor to Blu-ray made has made it over ten years from its 1997 debut before another technology was introduced to succeed it.  That is less than half the time span that consumers were stuck with VHS before DVD came along.

While the interview is a bit short on exposition of that opinion, it is widely held that the Internet will spell the end of physical media.  Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix , a company currently almost dependent on shinny plastic discs, has said his company is beginning to transition from physical media to downloadable content.

Contrary to these opinions is that of another Andy from the US who likens Blu-ray Disc to paper for utility.

"I'm fond of recalling the old visions of the past that the paperless office would completely obliterate the need for paper. It seemed like a very reasonable, logical prediction decades ago that turned out to be completely wrong."

- Andy Parsons, Chair, Blu-ray Disc Association Promotion Committee, via Wired

The sentiments that Blu-ray was here to stay were echoed by other BDA members from movie studios Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox who’s very lifeblood is in shiny plastic discs.

Believe what you want but I am hard pressed to see the logical parallel between the ubiquity of paper which requires no specialized device to either write to or read from and any electronic format that requires proprietary, specialized, complex equipment to use which is then is loaded with function limiting circuitry and programming, read digital rights management (DRM), to further limit utility and control end use.  Paper has lasted for thousands of years for its pure utility and ease of use.  Imagine paper loaded with DRM; special inks that are illegible without proper the proper reading glasses, proprietary paper made only to absorb proprietary inks, and the capability to report improper mixing of brands back to the manufacturers so that they could sue users for intellectual property rights infringement for an improper, unlicensed paper/ink combination read with unauthorized glasses.

The Renaissance would never have occurred and we would still be living in the Dark Ages.

So, where does the most likely outcome for Blu-ray lie?  As always, the most likely outcome lies somewhere in the middle.

Shinny plastic discs have been the dominant format dating back to the introduction of the Compact Disc in 1982, usurping LP and cassette alike.  DVD also did a relatively quick number on VHS, but times have changed.

The music industry is suffering through a sustained downturn in CD sales and digital distribution is on the rise, both by legal and illegal means now that digital distribution through the Internet has matured enough to make it quick and easy.  As Internet capacity continues to grow and download speeds improve, it is unrealistic to expect that digital distribution will not do to the sales of shinny plastic discs with movies on them what it is currently doing to sales of shinny plastic discs with music on them.  It is only a matter of time.

There will always be some people, raised in the days of physical media, that prefer owning an actual object and will antagonized into staying put by the overly restrictive, unstable DRM foisted on downloadable media.  No one wants to see their music/movie collection evaporate simply because the company they rented it from closed down an authentication server to cut cost or jolt sales artificially.  Those who grew up with physical media will see it as a safe bastion from such loss, even as the media companies continue to seek ways to lock consumers out of disc purchases to spur continued sales.

As for the whole rental verses purchase issue, it would be an unfathomable level naïveté if anyone actually believes that the constant barrage of non-negotiable End User License Agreements (EULA) included with every type of digital media is not an attempt to turn purchases into rentals.

For those growing up now, physical media will not inherently provide the sense of ownership that those of earlier generations will seek in having a disc.  Discs will not go away completely, but the market will atrophy for them quite considerably as market dominance shifts to digital distribution and to those comfortable with its use.

Blu-ray will make it more than 5 years, but not as the market chosen preferred format for movies and music, irrespective of what the movie industry wants.

Technology, as it always has, continues in its developmental acceleration and when the convenience of digitally downloading and watching a movie is on par with downloading and listening to music, when downloading exceeds the convenience of popping a movie disc into the old player, that is when disc will start to rapidly fade.

The speed at which shinny plastic discs will fade as the dominant form of entertainment media will simply be a function of the disparity in convenience between the old and the new.

 

About the author:

Professionally, David engineers building structures. He is also a musician and audio enthusiast. David gives his perspective about loudspeakers and complex audio topics from his mechanical engineering and HAA Certified Level I training.

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Recent Forum Posts:

Press Record posts on October 01, 2008 04:02
poutanen, post: 460775
I download about half the music I listen to, the other half I buy a CD (when I think the artist has made something worth owning), or vinyl (currently the format with the longest lifespan on the materials it's made from).

I never download movies… my room-mate did for a long time, and we were hitting 3-400 GB per month of bandwidth. No biggie, right? That's when Rogers decided to cap everyone at 50 gb and put a $2/GB charge on everyones bill for additional bandwidth.

50 GB will give you 2 Blu-Ray quality movies, or up to 10 DVD quality movies, with no other browsing/downloads, etc for the month. Are you nuts!?! And $2/gb means a blu-ray would cost ~$50 to download after you've exceeded your limit. No thanks, I'll keep watching the sales, getting the previously viewed, etc. for my BluRay collection.

Looks have about at least 5-10 years until obsolescence then eh? Unless they can figure out a way to make the internet go faster for the majority of Americans. I think Hard Drive prices will keep going down though.
jamesnicholes posts on September 25, 2008 04:54
Blu-ray

nice information…………………..
thanx
poutanen posts on September 24, 2008 09:52
dobyblue, post: 460012
That's a ratio (20) of 7,300:1 which is about the same ratio I'd guess to of people who would consider downloading an HD movie to those who'd download an .mp3

I download about half the music I listen to, the other half I buy a CD (when I think the artist has made something worth owning), or vinyl (currently the format with the longest lifespan on the materials it's made from).

I never download movies… my room-mate did for a long time, and we were hitting 3-400 GB per month of bandwidth. No biggie, right? That's when Rogers decided to cap everyone at 50 gb and put a $2/GB charge on everyones bill for additional bandwidth.

50 GB will give you 2 Blu-Ray quality movies, or up to 10 DVD quality movies, with no other browsing/downloads, etc for the month. Are you nuts!?! And $2/gb means a blu-ray would cost ~$50 to download after you've exceeded your limit. No thanks, I'll keep watching the sales, getting the previously viewed, etc. for my BluRay collection.
dobyblue posts on September 22, 2008 16:27
The music comparison is also weak because you can fit about 146,000 tunes on a 500GB hard drive providing you don't care about quality.

How many 1080p movies with 5.1 sound can you put on there? 10-20?

That's a ratio (20) of 7,300:1 which is about the same ratio I'd guess to of people who would consider downloading an HD movie to those who'd download an .mp3
BMXTRIX posts on September 22, 2008 14:36
David Waratuke, post: 459737
The issue I am getting at is that neither Griffiths nor Samsung have spoken out against Pocket-Lint's presentation of his statements….

They have not. And unless they do, the only rational interpretation is that they are satisfied with what was published.
I have no idea, but what has been rewritten by this site, and others, is not what was published. This site chose to follow that course, and I am hopeful that a better explanation of the comment will be made.

David Waratuke, post: 459737
The infrastructure is the internet which is ubiquitous.
No, it is broadband and the storage capacity/device for playback, which is limited. Just because everyone has access to the Internet, does not mean that they can download movies or want to own virtual media.

David Waratuke, post: 459737
The download support is fractured by the studios and the CEs battling to one up each other. Unfortunately, mixed standards and interoperability problems has not stopped the music download market.
Making comparisons between music downloads and video downloads is similar to this site making comparisons between DVD-A/SACD and HD optical discs. They are completely different, and incomparible. Digital video content is not just being setup to be DRMed to death, it is also being setup to be locked into a signle playback device (PS3/X360/Roku/etc.) without any means to retrieve movies from other locations, or on other boxes.

The music download comparison is weak, because music can often be shared, and the MP3 format has led as the standard which most consumers turn to in very limited numbers. That's important to remember - that despite 10+ years of MP3 existing, and players being out there - heck, the iPod is coming up on 7 years! - and digital music still only represents a small part of the sales of music.

David Waratuke, post: 459737
Following the same old formula certainly does not guarantee product success without accounting for current market factors and differences from the old situation. Blindly following the methods of past success certainly shows a lack of understanding.
The point is that in the last 100 years this has been a proven way of the market accepting product rollout. There hasn't been a different way of introducing this type of product to the consumer that has been proven effective, and you surely aren't presenting a way here.

CRT followed this, VHS did, plasma, HDTV, mp3 players, heck, LCD didn't really kick in until about 5-7 years ago…

You are incorrect that the ‘old formula’ doesn't account for current market factors. It is the current market factors that actually make Blu-ray the go to product.

David Waratuke, post: 459737
Blu-ray quite simply does not provide the additional advantages over its predecessor that DVD did.
But people didn't buy HDTVs for DVD, they bought it for HD. The consumer is slowly, but steadily, being sold that the only way to get HD movies, is through Blu-ray. This is the ‘same old formula’ at work again, and is incredibly effective - and proven - methodology for building brand awareness throughout the nation and the world.

Moreso - when players hit $100, which they will, perhaps in less than 2 years, then why would any consumer buy a DVD player? Especially when most consumers rent videos?

David Waratuke, post: 459737
Throw in the ever accelerating rate of technological change…
Yes, I absolutely agree with this! But, just because something new is introduced does not mean that it will immediately supplant the old product. DVD took years to outsell DVD, and Blu-ray will take years to outsell DVD. Likewise, DD will chomp into that more and more, which likely will prevent Blu-ray from owning as much market share as DVD.

On the other hand, that is a long way from making Blu-ray a failure, and certainly has not been claimed by anyone within the BDA as being the speciific goal of the format. The goal would most likely be to make money and be considered a successful product.

To that end, I think Blu-ray is right on track.

David Waratuke, post: 459737
Blu-ray is doing fine for now, but several other possibilities exist.
DD exist - that's it, and without a unified solution, or an actual infrastructure, it has a ways to go before starting to become feasible. You have mentioned no other and the CEs haven't gotten behind any other - yet.

But, I'm not a fortune teller, I'm simply looking at the rollout of a major CE product taking 3-5 years to even get off the ground, and another 5-10 years to become prevalent. This leaves nothing else available to step up anytime soon.

David Waratuke, post: 459737
DD is one that may come faster… All it takes is for one of these groups to come up with a relatively minor upgrade that boosts existing capacity and the bandwidth issue could suddenly be moot.
That's a huge if, and still leaves the entire hardware infrastructure and marketing necessary to build.

David Waratuke, post: 459737
Flash drive technology is rapidly gaining enough capacity to put it in range of a viable alternative to Blu-ray…
As an ownership model? Yes, that would suprise me. As a rental model, there's some serious potential there. DRM, DRM, DRM!

David Waratuke, post: 459737
The other possibility is three dimension optical disc technology.

Will any of this come soon and displace BD?
In 5 years? Not likely. In 10 years? I do think that 10 years is about the magic number, but CEs may think that the cycle for profitability at 10 years is to long due to the low price levels which are reached far to quickly these days.

We'll see if HVD or anything else comes along, but another physical format after Blu-ray would definitely suprise me, yet doesn't seem entirely out of the question. HVD @ 2TB+ a disc sounds awfully good to me.

David Waratuke, post: 459737
Maybe; the one thing that is certain is that the technological change will come faster than it has in the past. There is simply too much else going on to think that BD will make it longer than the 10 or so years that DVD reigned unopposed.
You know, I do agree with that, but I think 5 years is way to short. I also think that 7-8 years is a point at which a competitor may emerge, but that competitor will still have to fight the same battle which Blu-ray is in right now.

Which means that the actual life and profitability of Blu-ray may be 10-15 years.

David Waratuke, post: 459737
What you seen to take as knocks against Blu-ray has nothing to do with quality. What gets said about Blu-ray all has to do with longevity relative to other formats, technological advances, and apparent market preferences.
Yet, much of what is said ignores that the BDA is running ahead of their predictions. So, while the real headaches of Blu-ray are there with profiles and a wishing for cheaper/better players ASAP, are touched on. The real plus of Blu-ray with so many movies coming to market, so many new releases, the actual quality… I'm not sure that I've actually read much about that on this website, which by itself, is a knock from a site called Audioholics.

David Waratuke, post: 459737
Have you seen very many Blu-ray adds now that HD-DVD is gone?
I didn't see many before, but I do think that with HD DVD out of the picture, and many BD manufacturers maxed out for production, that advertising has diminished greatly. But, I think we will see more, and I have seen some ads pick up a bit lately for movies which are featured first as being released on Blu-ray Disc in HD.

David Waratuke, post: 459737
Why aren't these BDA guys still trying to get the word out to masses about the virtues of Blu-ray when, repeatedly, market research reports say that most consumers are perfectly happy with DVD.
I would say because they are outpacing thier predicted growth, which means they don't have the production available to handle additional sales at this time.

If you have 200 seats available, don't sell 300 tickets.

David Waratuke, post: 459737
Without any labeling on a disc, could you tell a Blu-ray from a DVD; I doubt the average consumer could.
Well, yeah, I probably could, but I've actually closely looked at them. But, the jump in quality I can notice in about half a second on my 768p display.

David Waratuke, post: 459737
DVD when it was new certainly was easily identified from a VHS tape. This leaves most consumers asking whats new, it looks like the same old disc. And other than subtle technical differences that don't affect the end user, in most ways, it is the same old disc.
No, consumers don't ask. Monster looks like Monoprice - why is it better and more expensive? Bose looks like… well, it looks like cheap crud, yet it has been MARKETED to be ‘the best’. Blu-ray is HD, DVD is not, so the consumer, as happy as they are, have been marketed HD as the best, and will spend a premium to get it in the form of Blu-ray… or they possibly will in a few years when BD hits a price they are willing to pay.

David Waratuke, post: 459737
I don't necessarily prefer DD to win, but when the time comes, I do expect downloads to win despite my personal preferences.
It hasn't happenned with music, and there is nothing historically to support this.

David Waratuke, post: 459737
And based on what I got from reading Griffiths in Pocket-Lint, I think he sees it that way too.
That's what you got, but not what was written, so instead of pursuing truth, a blind guess was made.

David Waratuke, post: 459737
As do we.
As I have said, it seems a very poor choice for a site called Audioholics to take such a negative spin on such a high quality format which offers so much.

David Waratuke, post: 459737
Once again, good day to you.
Likewise.
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