Blu-ray feeling blue?

Is Blu-ray dead?

The high definition video disc that toppled HD-DVD to win the so-called "format war" in February isn't catching on as well as analysts, retailers, and manufacturers had hoped. And with the 2008 holiday buying season just around the corner, retailers are slashing prices.

The Wall Street Journal has the story:

Entry-level Blu-ray players have dropped to below $230 at major retailers including Target Corp., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Best Buy Co. Some experts predict that promotional prices may fall below $150 on Black Friday, the big shopping day after Thanksgiving. Earlier this year, most Blu-ray players retailed for $400 or so.

But even with players selling for $150 and a recent bullish report on HDTV purchases despite the current economic climate,  some say Blu-ray still won't catch on.

The problem is with the perceived advantage of Blu-ray over standard DVDs. ZDNET's Robin Harris points out that "upconverting" DVD players give viewers video quality that rivals that of Blu-ray for a lower entry fee, and without the need to buy new discs.

"Suddenly, for $100, your average consumer can put good video on their HDTV using standard DVDs," he writes.

He goes on to call out the Blu-ray Disc Association for being asleep at the wheel by sticking to rigid licensing fees and pricing structures. Asked about why his company's popular computers don't yet carry Blu-ray drives, Apple CEO Steven Jobs called the technology "a bag of hurt."

It's great to watch the movies, but the licensing of the tech is so complex, we're waiting till things settle down and Blu-ray takes off in the marketplace.

But perhaps a greater challenge to Blu-ray's success than even its licensing troubles is the recent coming-of-age of streaming on-demand video – some of it high-definition, on both TVs and computers. The Journal has more:

Cable-TV, phone and satellite providers as well as electronics makers are still piecing together the infrastructure and alliances necessary to offer a large library of downloadable and video-on-demand movies and TV shows in high definition. But as soon as that happens, "Blu-ray is done," predicted Rob Enderle, an analyst who advises companies including Microsoft Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Inc. on technology trends. "Retailers have every reason to be worried."
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