So, UK Xbox boss Stephen McGill wonders 'Who needs Blu-ray?' when Full HD digital downloads are available. I immediately think, 'Well, me, for a start'.
In an interview with Xbox Achievements, McGill made the statement: 'We offer Full HD 1080p Blu-ray quality streaming instantly, no download, no delay. So, who needs Blu-ray?' But that argument works the other way: Blu-ray offers Full HD 1080p Blu-ray quality, instantly, no download, no delay. So, who needs downloads?
Well obviously there are people who need downloads. Lots of AV-hedz download films and television material to watch on their TV because its quick. Some of them, apparently, even do it legally, paying actual money to do so. It also saves shelf space.
But on the other hand, just because this way of devouring video content exists, doesn't mean that Blu-ray is dead and pointless.
Firstly, there's the lossless audio issue. Home cinema owners like lossless audio. It sounds great. Once you've heard it, you don't want to go back to lossy. But streaming services like Xbox Zune don't offer lossess audio, because they assume their users don't want it. Why? Because the service is entirely about convenience, not quality, despite what McGill may claim.
Secondly, there's the practical issue. As my colleague Marc Chacksfield on TechRadar, points out: 'Full HD 1080p quality streaming available to all in the UK is still something of a pipe dream, regardless of what McGill says – and won't be a reality until our broadband infrastructure is given a much needed kick-start.'
In fact, in terms of convenience, for most people it's still more practical to buy a Blu-ray player to hookup to their HDTV.
Thirdly, there's the fact that a lot of people like to actually own a physical copy of things they buy. Take a look at any AV-Holic featured in HCC, and you'll see a massive shelf of discs, often lovingly arranged in alphabetical or thematic order.
And, finally, there's the Blu-ray experience itself. While the format was initially slow to make use of its interactive capabilities, studios now are fully exploiting everything Blu-ray has to offer. Just take at look at the Mother Mode in the new Alien Anthology Blu-ray box set for proof.
McGill, of course, works for Microsoft, the company that has continually eschewed putting a BD drive in its Xbox console, so he has an ulterior motive for what he says. I wouldn't expect him to come out and say anything else, actually. Maybe he'd have a different opinion if the Microsoft-backed HD DVD format had won the format war...
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