SHIFT: Movie studios are protecting themselves to death

via DVICE by Charlie White on 12/4/08

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Times are tough. With financial resources dwindling by the minute, the movie-viewing public recoils in horror as Hollywood asks them to pay $39.99 for a film on Blu-ray disc. But there are ways to watch those flicks that are more economical. Just in time for cash-strapped film buffs to snap them up, increased bandwidth and processor power are making it practical to stream or download HD movies to living rooms and home theaters.

Sounds good, but there’s a catch. Those production studios are holding out on us. Look at the Netflix HD service on the Xbox 360, the super-sharp HDX movies on the Vudu set-top box, HD movies via Apple TV, and you see the same story every time: thousands of movies and nothing on.

The best movies aren’t available for download in HD. The studios are protecting their lucrative Blu-ray sales. Doesn’t this sound a lot like the record companies when they tried to stop the online digital music juggernaut just so they could keep selling CDs for $16.99?

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Movie studios are throttling the online release of their best and newest titles, just at the same moment that broadband connections and PCs can handle HD streaming and downloads. We took a look at the best-selling Blu-ray discs on Amazon, and noticed that only one of the top 10 sellers is available on any download/streaming service in HD. That one movie is Iron Man, pretty much the studios’ poster child for online sales, holding it out and figuratively saying, “See, we’re offering good movies online.” No, you’re not. One new blockbuster overshadowing hundreds of third-tier flops (Get Smart, I’m looking at you) and moldy oldies does not an online library make.

Why Are They Doing This?
Content purveyors would like to protect their old business models. They want to keep that Blu-ray and DVD gravy train rolling. Some consumers are enabling this. For reasons I don’t really understand, a sizable portion of movie buffs want to collect discs to watch again and again, or to just see their boxes lined up on a shelf. For that, many are willing to pay upwards of $25.99 (or a crazy $39.99 retail price) for Iron Man or Hancock or Dark Knight or Wall-E on Blu-ray, because they can’t get those movies in HD quality any other way.

Or Can They?
A peek at one of the many torrent tracking sites shows that every movie that’s released on Blu-ray is available for illegal peer-to-peer (a.k.a. BitTorrent) download in pristine 1080p, sometimes weeks before the physical Blu-ray disc ships. And those copyright-infringing downloaders are not the worst problem for 2009, according to Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey. He says websites such as megavideo.com and watch-movies.net are an even bigger threat to movie studio revenue in the coming year.

Worn-out Business Models
It’s not just the movie studios that are trying to protect worn-out business models. TV networks are holding back full episodes of series for online viewing or download, protecting syndication revenues that garner billion-dollar profits. At the same time, heavy downloaders are being throttled by service providers such as Time Warner, struggling to conserve bandwidth while also protecting their own pay-per-view movie and pay-channel revenues.

Past is Prologue
Clinging to tired old business models … standing in the way of technology: Doesn’t this sound a lot like the record companies in the early part of this century? They tried to protect sales of their overpriced CDs while the world discovered the lubricated ease of downloading every song ever recorded. For free. Eight years later, record stores have almost disappeared from the landscape, and Americans download twice as many singles as they buy in CD form. Digital downloads of music just surpassed overall CD sales at Atlantic Records. Apple’s iTunes continues to sell music for $0.99 a song, an almost-reasonable price that’s helping record companies salvage some profit in this new way of doing things.

Downloads on the Upswing
Likewise, HD movie downloads will eventually surpass sales of Blu-ray discs. In the meantime, movie studios can’t foot-drag this technology just so they can continue supporting their traditional business model. They must make HD offerings plentiful and reasonably priced; the current fantasy of retailing movies at $40 will not fly. Downloads will happen either way — with studios receiving a fair profit, or left out in the cold while consumers find a free way to do the same thing.

Pioneer shows off giant-capacity 400GB optical disc

via DVICE by Charlie White on 12/2/08

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Amid all the talk of online video downloading and streaming, the optical disks still get bigger. Pioneer’s future-looking roadmap now boasts of a 400GB optical disc, spread out on 16 layers and read by a head that’s almost the same as those on Blu-ray drives. Read-only versions of these monster discs will arrive soon and then in 2010 there will be re-writable versions. There are even bigger plans on the horizon, with 1TB discs debuting in 2013.

This sounds like that capacity battle that was raging back when Blu-ray and the late HD DVD were locking horns, when last we heard, the top experimental capacity of Blu-ray hit 250GB in 2007. But isn’t all this becoming a moot point? With hard disc prices hitting next to nothing, flash drive costs plummeting and online bandwidth skyrocketing, it’s looking like optical disc’s days are numbered.

However, there will still be a need for long-term archival storage. Perhaps that’s where Pioneer’s projected 1TB optical drive will be welcomed in 2013. Unless, of course, someone figures out a better way to store data for centuries by then. Five years is a long time — there could be a whole new way to store data by then.

Update: Pioneer says these 400GB discs are compatible with Blu-ray readers now on the market.

DigiTimes, via Ubergizmo

PS3 tops CNN’s ‘Best of the Blu-ray players’ list

via PS3 Fanboy by Alan Tsang on 11/26/08

CNNMoney has put together a list of the five best Blu-ray players you can currently find on the market. Sitting pretty at the top is our beloved PS3, with the highest grade given of A-. Why such a high grade? The ability to upgrade to Profile 2.0, excellent picture quality, 7.1 Dolby TrueHD audio, and fast load times for movies were just some of the reasons CNN cited. Their biggest complain seems to be about the lack of an IR receptor, which means you can’t use universal remotes with it.

Not to worry, CNET and RemoteShoppe has got you covered in that department. Each site has their own Infrared-to-Bluetooth converter guides to help you pick out the best equipment for your needs. Check it out here and here.

Source — CNN via EngadgetHD
Source — CNET and RemoteShoppe via Engadget

Netflix everywhere: ‘Watch Instantly’ now coming to TiVo

 
 

via DVICE by Charlie White on 10/30/08

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Netflix has a dance card that’s almost full. The day after we find out the video rental-by-mail company’s Watch Instantly service will be showing up on the Xbox 360 in HD trim, we hear it’s also going to make its appearance on TiVo personal video recorders in December. While it’ll be only available on TiVo’s HD boxes, too bad it won’t be busting out of the gate in high definition. Looks like that’s bound to be on the way, though.

So now you can stream movies and TV shows from the Internet in tons of ways on TiVo, including web video such as YouTube, the Amazon Unbox service where you pay a few bucks for each movie, and now Netflix, which is free if you’re a member of Netflix (which will cost you $8.99 a month to get one DVD at home at a time and unlimited streaming). Exciting stuff.

Add that to the availability of Netflix Watch Instantly on Blu-ray players from LG and Samsung, and having a stand-alone Roku Netflix box — or even a PC — in your home theater might not even be worth the trouble.

Via New York Times

 
 

The Hotness: Hokkaido DVD Player

via geeksugar — Geek is chic. by geeksugar on 7/3/08

If Phil Bartoszewicz had his way, the days of storing those boring black-cased DVD players in your attractive entertainment center would be over. He would ensure that everyone had access to DVD players that blend in with your stylish decor. And that’s exactly what he’s done with his concept design called Hokkaido: a stand alone optical DVD player with a retro touch, but obviously modern in its design. Sleek and geek chic, that’s how I like my components.

Seriously, can someone please give this guy a job so I can claim a Hokkaido for myself? Oh, and just one tiny suggestion? Make it Blu-ray compatible, please. Thanks.




Source

Xbox 360 Blu-ray console shipping by September?

via Engadget by Thomas Ricker on 5/2/08

For all of Microsoft’s denial, the Xbox 360 Blu-ray console rumors just will not die. In fact, they are getting more and more specific. The Chinese language Economic Daily News is reporting that Pegatron, an OEM subsidiary of ASUS, has won the order from Microsoft to assemble the Xbox 360 with Blu-ray Disc ROM drive — shipments are expected to being in Q3 of this year. Now come on Microsoft, just come clean on the matter, we won’t tell anyone.

Microsoft axes Xbox HD-DVD drive. As if you didn’t see that one coming

via DVICE by Michael Trei on 2/24/08

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With everyone picking their moment to jump from the HD-DVD ship following Toshiba’s decision to discontinue the format. It was only a matter of time before giant Microsoft would have to bite the bullet and axe the Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive. The news finally came in a written statement Saturday, presumably timed to make as few waves as possible. Microsoft sold an estimated 300,000 drives, but they were normally not included in the format’s sales figures which counted only stand alone players.

Associated Press, via CNET News

Toshiba Kills HD-DVD

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Toshiba announced Tuesday that it will no longer manufacture HD DVD hardware. From its press release:

“Toshiba Corporation today announced that it has undertaken a thorough review of its overall strategy for HD DVD and has decided it will no longer develop, manufacture and market HD DVD players and recorders. This decision has been made following recent major changes in the market. Toshiba will continue, however, to provide full product support and after-sales service for all owners of Toshiba HD DVD products.”

Gizmodo’s man in Japan, Ichiroo, reported that the press release was “in the wild” before the company’s press conference had even begun.

The BBC has its version up. So does Bloomberg and the AFP.

There’s no nonsense, no big show, no morbid preliminaries: just the final truth in black and white, seemingly pre-empting its own schedule of events. Perhaps some still wondered if it would be too “proud” to act quickly, and would somehow drag it out for days, or even weeks.

Even the AP works this thought into its coverage, saying that the format’s demise is a “possible blow to Toshiba’s pride,” as if the corporation itself—or even the very technology—has emotions. But really, isn’t it all just business?

Toshiba Kills HD DVD, Official [Gizmodo]

Tokyo—Toshiba Corporation today announced that it has undertaken a thorough review of its overall strategy for HD DVD and has decided it will no longer develop, manufacture and market HD DVD players and recorders. This decision has been made following recent major changes in the market. Toshiba will continue, however, to provide full product support and after-sales service for all owners of Toshiba HD DVD products.

HD DVD was developed to offer consumers access at an affordable price to high-quality, high definition content and prepare them for the digital convergence of tomorrow where the fusion of consumer electronics and IT will continue to progress.

“We carefully assessed the long-term impact of continuing the so-called ‘next-generation format war’ and concluded that a swift decision will best help the market develop,” said Atsutoshi Nishida, President and CEO of Toshiba Corporation. “While we are disappointed for the company and more importantly, for the consumer, the real mass market opportunity for high definition content remains untapped and Toshiba is both able and determined to use our talent, technology and intellectual property to make digital convergence a reality.”

Toshiba will continue to lead innovation, in a wide range of technologies that will drive mass market access to high definition content. These include high capacity NAND flash memory, small form factor hard disk drives, next generation CPUs, visual processing, and wireless and encryption technologies. The company expects to make forthcoming announcements around strategic progress in these convergence technologies.

Toshiba will begin to reduce shipments of HD DVD players and recorders to retail channels, aiming for cessation of these businesses by the end of March 2008. Toshiba also plans to end volume production of HD DVD disk drives for such applications as PCs and games in the same timeframe, yet will continue to make efforts to meet customer requirements. The company will continue to assess the position of notebook PCs with integrated HD DVD drives within the overall PC business relative to future market demand.

This decision will not impact on Toshiba’s commitment to standard DVD, and the company will continue to market conventional DVD players and recorders. Toshiba intends to continue to contribute to the development of the DVD industry, as a member of the DVD Forum, an international organization with some 200 member companies, committed to the discussion and defining of optimum optical disc formats for the consumer and the related industries.

Toshiba also intends to maintain collaborative relations with the companies who joined with Toshiba in working to build up the HD DVD market, including Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, and DreamWorks Animation and major Japanese and European content providers on the entertainment side, as well as leaders in the IT industry, including Microsoft, Intel, and HP. Toshiba will study possible collaboration with these companies for future business opportunities, utilizing the many assets generated through the development of HD DVD.

Stick a fork in HD DVD it’s done

According to Engadget, sources from across the globe are confirming earlier reports that Toshiba would be bowing out of the optical disc format war, but it will happen sooner than we originally heard. Reuters and the NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) claim to have inside sources that confirm that Toshiba is officially retiring the HD DVD format as soon as possible and will be shutting down its DVD factories in Aomori Prefecture located in northern Japan. The shutdown will reportedly cost Toshiba hundreds of millions of dollars.

The death spiral of HD DVD seemed to have been kick started in June 2007, when the corporate rental giant Blockbuster said they would only carry Blu-ray within it’s retail locations. Then in early January 2008, Warner Bros. confirmed they would drop HD DVD in favor of the Sony backed – but not owned – Blu-ray format. Earlier this week HD DVD was knocked to the ground and repeatedly kicked as Netflix and Wal-Mart chose to support Blu in this completely ridiculous interesting format war.

While we wait for official word Stateside from Toshiba it certainly looks like this format war is completely done-zos.

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Is a new, slim PS3 in the works?

via DVICE by Adam Frucci on 2/1/08

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The Playstation 3 isn’t exactly known for being a slim device; in fact, quit the opposite is true. The thing is a monster, weighing more than a grade-schooler and taking up loads of space in your living room. That might not be the case for much longer, however, as rumor has it that Sony’s working on a slimmed-down version.

As Sony has already figured out how to make its Blu-ray laser apparatues thin enough to fit into relatively skinny laptops, the idea of being able to put all that gear into a smaller case isn’t out of the question. One wonders if Sony won’t wait a bit longer, however, as the PS3 hasn’t been out for long enough to warrant a product refresh of this magnitude, one would think. On the other hand, a radically different case design could be the shot in the arm the console needs to really take off now that Blu-ray appears to be the winner of the HD-disc wars. Only time will tell if this rumor is right.

T3, via Electronista