And then there was one: Blu-ray.
The battle between the next-generation, high-definition optical disc formats was an exciting, if exasperating, contest to follow. But now that the smoke is clearing, and Blu-ray has officially kicked HD DVD's proverbial butt, why am I still waiting to buy a Blu-ray player? I mean, my colleague spent US$1,000 dollars a year ago so that he could be the first one his the block to own one, and today, Blu-ray players are less than half that price.
Why doesn't my local Blockbuster carry Blu-ray Disc movies? In fact, why are my trips to Blockbuster so infrequent these days?
I'm thinking that Blu-ray -- and high-definition optical disc ownership in general -- just isn't that appealing. I've watched Blu-ray movies on the best televisions money can buy in Circuit City, Best Buy and Tweeter, and while the picture looks terrific, it just doesn't have me reaching for my wallet the way DVDs did when they were first introduced. Maybe it's because it's an evolutionary improvement in video quality and not the revolutionary jump that occurred when DVDs overtook VHS tapes.
So I've come up with these four reasons why I -- and probably most of America -- won't be heading off to buy a Blu-ray player anytime soon:
1. Blu-ray players are more than four times the cost of standard DVD players.
In fact, Sony just announced Wednesday that it will be releasing its next-generation player for a cool US$400 this summer. Still too much. Experts say the magic number that will spur real consumer adoption of optical disc technology is US$199. Some analysts predict we may see Blu-ray players for US$199 by the holiday season, but I'm not holding my breath.
I've had a certain disdain for Blu-ray Disc from the beginning (even though I figured it would win the format war) because of the high price of the players. I know this is partly due to the fact that, unlike HD DVD, manufacturers had to change out their DVD platter-pressing equipment for the new format. But I can't help but consider that Sony and others may be keeping the prices artificially high because they knew from the beginning they had a leg up on HD DVD when it came to studio support.
2. Upgraded DVD players offer near-HD quality for a fraction of the price.
Have you been in your local Best Buy, Sears or Circuit City lately? That's right, 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p output are all offered on these inexpensive players, and you can purchase upgraded DVD burners as well for about half the cost of a Blu-ray player.
According to industry analysts, the sweet spot for high-definition televisions is from 32-in. to 46-in. screens. If you're sitting eight or more feet away from one of those televisions, I don't believe you're going to notice enough of a difference to convince you to spend a couple hundred more dollars on a Blu-ray player.