Dead Tech: Blu-ray

I wonder just how many people received an obsolete blu-ray player this past Christmas. Yes, it looks like blu-ray is finally being sunset but retailers haven’t told you that, still trying to unload the inventory before it has to be sold as scrap.

What leads me to this prognostication? Quite a few things. First retail channels are dumping their supply of blu-ray media. Several months ago I went to Barnes & Noble web site and ordered “Farscape – The Peacekeeper Wars” believing I was ordering a very cheap DVD set. What I got shipped was the blu-ray set. I went to a different site and ordered the DVD set at a significantly higher price than the blu-ray.

When blu-ray first came out the blu-ray players wouldn’t play ordinary DVDs. When the manufacturers finally figured out people would not buy yet another one trick pony they begrudgingly added support for ordinary DVDs. Blu-ray movies _always_ sold for more money than the DVD versions but today they are being dumped at scrap prices.

To really get anything out of a blu-ray player you need a very updated television and you need to sit a rather exact distance from it. I have read countless articles talking about just how much better “the blu-ray experience” is, but seriously, when you are veging in bed or sitting in your living room just how much quality do you really need. We’ve heard all of the same arguments for vinyl albums vs. compact disk only to have consumers decide the low quality MP3 format is good enough for most listening pleasure.

I’m old enough to have lived through the VHS vs. Sony Betamax format war. A large swath of the consumer population found themselves left stranded when lower quality VHS won out. Today we have content providers and equipment manufacturers trying to convince consumers they should completely replace their video systems every 2 years. Not an easy sell given the recession we just went through. Adding insult to injury streaming services are about to dwarf blu-ray quality, if and only if you live in a location where you can get enough bandwidth to actually stream such content.

We have a serious “green” cultural explosion. It doesn’t matter what one’s position is on global warming, the bulk of the country believes it is not okay to fill up landfills with products that had nothing else wrong with them other than planned obsolescence. Do you know why I finally tossed the old tube type television in my bedroom? It had little to do with the capabilities of the new cheap flat screen, other than the flat screen took a lot less power. All of the new features and smaller real estate requirements might have looked good on paper, but, it had more to do with the fact the electricity savings would pay for the new television in under two years. Despite having just come out of a recession, getting people to toss things out every 2 years is a tough sell to an environmentally conscious consumer.

In order to compete with the new streaming quality the disk market will need yet another new media format. This would mean yet another disk player. Since marketing history repeats itself, it will mean yet another device that isn’t backwardly compatible with existing formats, at least for the first few years.

Despite the industry’s best intentions, VHS hasn’t completely died. You can still surf to Sears and find quite a few VHS DVD combo players. Seriously, it has been more than a decade since DVD was out and people haven’t tossed out their VHS collections en masse. How do I know this? Just look at how many combo players are still being sold. There is an obviously large market keeping those devices stocked. Despite all of the quality chatter, I switched to DVD for one reason, not having to rewind the tape. Every VHS player I ever owned would fail in exactly the same way. It would first refuse to rewind a tape, then it would start eating the tapes when you tried to rewind them. Given the price tag I’m seeing on those combo players I suspect they do not suffer from said fault. The cheap VHS players I used to buy did.

Let us not forget the other truism. Just because over the air television is broadcast in digital HD, it does not mean the content was actually recorded in digital HD. Most of those old movies television stations run and even the old television shows themselves were not.

The average age of a car on the road is now north of 11 years. It would be interesting to find out the true average age of video equipment in people’s homes. I suspect it is even older.

The simple truth about video is that good enough is simply good enough. If we want to see something really spectacular we will plunk down the money to see the movie in a theater that has recliner seating.

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