We've been challenged numorous times to give an "educated" guess as to how the blue laser war will end -- and when. It has come to a point where it is no longer about the technology nor the consumer. It is about who has the most to lose.
So we're projecting a winner...sort of. Sort of because there are deep DRM issues to be challenged and solved and there is the exact timing as to when real folks will see and/or care about the technology.
If only the business world - specifically the content world -- could be that
simple. But the moment content went digital the world changed. Blame Sony and
Philips when they talked us into enjoying the benefits of the innocent looking
Suddenly everyone wanted a piece of the action. Recently even the Tellywood (Television and Hollywood are essentially the same industry these days) unions have demanded their share of mobile video action. They have no idea what it is but it smells like money.
Over the past few years what started out as a simple skirmish for blue laser
dominance has spread faster than global warming.
Seems as though consumers want more than the warlords had bargained for. People
want their digital content at home and want to stream it throughout the house.
They want their little music, audio and video players so they can be entertained
on the train, in the plane, in class, in meetings.
People want their content their way, when/where they want it, and
they don't expect to pay for it more than once.
The whole premise behind the blue laser firefight is that high definition video
- at home - is only possible throwing more video pixels at your new HDTV set.
But... Have you really seen HDTV? Is that much better?
Sure techies have but what about real people? Can they tell
This year In-Stat estimates there will be more than 15.5 million HDTV sets in
homes around the globe and by 2009 that number will jump to 52 million. However, there are about 6.5 billion people on this orb so 52 million looks pretty puny. In the U.S. there are nearly 80 million baby boomers (born 1946 - 1964) and 10,000 turn 50 every day. Worldwide baby boomers plus the over 65 crowd is about 420 million prospective HDTV viewers.
These potential HDTV buyers have one thing in common. They have bad eyes. Cripes we could tell them SD was HD and they couldn't tell the difference. So
what's all the fuss about? The royalties.
With all the action going on behind the curtains negotiating alliances, special
deals, new battle plan restrictions and guidelines and hidden agendas; we watch
"breathlessly" as the Blu-ray and HD DVD debaters tell us why they are superior
and why they will win.
While BD burners are silently shipped to software producers in preparation for
the huge demand (if you can call $1,000 for a player huge), the HD DVD combatants
took their show on the road.
While the tradeshow and news release hubris goes on giving the media something
to report, only one thing stands between the prideful warriors and content delivery
peace. It isn't even a silly millimeter. It's 0.5mm or whether the content will be written near the surface of the disc or in the middle. That difference is worth a lot of money.
It only took seven years for today's DVD technology - introduced in 1996 - to
reach mainstream adoption. Next generation was "announced" in 1998. It still
looks like a two-year campaign before one reigns supreme. That's fine with Tellywood.
They still have a lot of strategic/tactical work to do to give people their
content without giving it to them.
Your vision of the perfect world is that you enjoy your content anywhere, anytime
on anything. The Tellywood vision is a fortress around their content
or airport security gates at both ends of your flight.
The best Tellywood DRM (digital rights management) scenario is to keep the pirate
flag flying forever. Even if it is a backup copy of legal content Tellywood's objective is to protect the consumer from him/herself.
A few members of the music industry have taken a more enlightened route by saying
you can make a few copies of your content but doing four, that's crossing
the line. That's a reasonable compromise assuming it leaves nothing behind and does no
If the BD and HD camps had known they were going to enter into an all-out conflict,
they should have taken hints from two proven warriors.
Miyamoto Musashi's The Book of Five Rings and Sun Tzu's The Art of War have been
the bibles of warriors (military, legal, business) for centuries. Musashi had
a simple no-nonsense approach. Cut down one's opponents. His key to winning -
and he had to be pretty good because he died of old age - was surprising the
enemy, use innovative techniques, knowing the rhythm of the situation and acting
Sun Tzu had a different philosophy. All war is based on deception. He felt that
it was of supreme importance in conflict to attack the enemy's strategy. He
warned that strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory but tactics
without strategy is the noise before defeat.
That has been translated, interpreted and used for almost every circumstance including
While the BD camp has given up a little ground in the area of content protection/security, the HD camp is hailing it as a victory. But as Douglas MacArthur said, "We are not retreating - we are just advancing in another direction."
Will BD ultimately win and be the "standard of choice?"
Probably. But ultimately you'll see some of the components included as peace is made.
The BD folks after all are Samurai seasoned by technical battles.
Is BD better than HD?
Sony's Beta format may have been better but Panasonic's VHS format swept the
lands. Panasonic's PD and DVD-RAM technologies may have been better than DVD+/-RW
but the PC and CE industry is littered with better technology.
As BD warlords make deals to win friends and enemies the royalties become less
important than bragging rights.
We see the battle's conclusion in terms of George S. Patton's observation, "Untutored
courage is useless in the face of educated bullets."
The BD camp's battle plan for the high definition package media of tomorrow will slip past next year. No one realistically sees it being significant
until at least 2009-2010.
SDTVs will have to be turned off. HDTVs turned on. There are a lot of Tellywood
DRM skirmishes to be fought over the consumers' use of their content.
How long will it take a 15-year-old to pick the chastity belt lock of Ms. Content
and what will Tellywood do in response?
Between now and then, millions of baby boomers will buy dirt cheap DVD burners
and recorders along with very inexpensive DVD media to save family moments/memories,
copy IPTV content, timeshift/archive their TV shows. They will watch all of
this on their HDTV-ready sets through weaker and weaker eyes.
If the Tellywood DRM is too difficult to navigate they may stick with the free
or simple DRM content to enjoy. Consumers may be so comfortable with their bad
habits moving to high definition discs may be very slow.
Or as Wayne Dyer said, "Conflict cannot survive without your participation."