Much Ado About Nothing: The Meaningless HD DVD "Debate"

You may use this content, but please cite (c) 2007, Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein. An example of a draft APA reference appears at the bottom of this entry.

Much Ado About Nothing

What happened when you bought your first DVD player (other than high blood pressure when you saw the price plummet in the ensuing months)? If you're like most of us, you quit buying VHS recordings and started to buy DVDs. What you rented depended on what was available at the store. We've sung this song before. Remember vinyl? We men hid them from our wives who wanted to ditch them along with all of our other goodies (like that pair of jeans that was hanging together by a thread).

Most people are aware that there are 2 incompatible high definition DVDs with the usual suspects on either side of the "battle." What a shock to see Apple supporting Blu-Ray and Microsoft (via X-Box) supporting HD-DVD. Sony and Toshiba are on opposite sides. Surprisingly, there are players already out there that can play both, which sounds like a potential slam dunk (sorry, I'm a Cleveland sports fan and LeBron is going to make someone pay in next years' NBA finals). But I will tell you what I've told my students for 20 years: if you understand that all media from still photos to 3-D can be (and in some cases have to be) digitized, they are free to float around the ether (oh, all right, the Internet) ready to be gobbled up by an "Amusing Ourselves to Death" consumer driven economy.

There are 2 reasons this "debate" is more of a debacle. First, we are already reaching the point of having what I call [(c)2007 Dr. Bruce C. Klopfenstein] infinite bandwidth at no cost to the consumer. Oh, there is no secret: as always, the advertisers will gladly fit the bill, especially when they will be able to target like they have never targeted before. You don't literally have to have unlimited bandwidth at no cost, but unless DVDs go the way of the paperback book (so cheap that's it's easier than a superbroadband download), save your money!

Consumers are in a terrific position right now as we have the following battles going on that are keeping prices low:

Cable vs. Satellite
Satellite vs. Satellite
IPTV vs. All comers
Netflix vs. Blockbuster

It's an old battle librarians quickly recognize: distributed databases (i.e., online databases updated daily) versus static media such as CD-ROMs that require no internet connection). CD-ROMs are good for archiving data, but live databases are best for current information.

So go tell your parents what you learned in school today: stay away from the high definition DVDs. Within 2 years 25-33% of us will already be getting movies on demand (and TV shows later once the freight train runs over them and they get clued into the truly new media world).

You are welcome to use my material but please cite it as Dr. Bruce Klopfenstein, (2007). An example APA citation is:

Vaidhyanathan, S. (2003, April 23). Universities, RIAA, and academic freedom. Sivacracy.net: Siva Vaidhyanathan's weblog. Retrieved April 26, 2003, from http://www.nyu.edu/classes/siva /2003_04_23_blogarchive.html#200187673


At 20 June, 2007 11:07, Blogger Ben said...

"Infinite bandwidth at no cost to the consumer?"

Not sure who your ISP is, but I am lucky enough to have a 15Mpbs connection that I pay about $60 a month for, and even at this -- faster than average -- speed it would still take me over 7 hours to download the same 50GB that can be delivered on a currently available Blu-ray disc.

This is hardly infinite or at "no cost". Sure, anything could happen in 3-5 years, and I don't know about anyone else, but I want to enjoy HD movies now. So, wait if you want, but deal with the fact that you might be waiting forever.

At 21 June, 2007 02:37, Blogger MiTV said...

Good to see you back, Dr. K

At 02 July, 2007 20:09, Anonymous I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE said...


At 02 July, 2007 20:35, Anonymous Richard Simmons said...

Dear Dr. Klopfenstein,

From your pal and iTV junkie, Richard Simmons:


At 02 July, 2007 20:42, Anonymous Richard Simmons (again) said...

P.S, Dr K....

At 24 August, 2007 14:15, Anonymous ecarey said...

Dr. K, as much as I would like to believe that we'll have this "on demand, low to no cost to the consumer world of high def", I'm having trouble believing that it could realistically happen within the next five years or so. Yes, the seeds have already been sown, but there are still huge leaps to be made. A couple weeks ago, I downloaded a high def version of The Departed off of xbox live through my xbox 360. At prices that are about what you'd expect to pay at a local blockbuster, it seemed like a good choice. I then realized that I was already paying for the xbox live service itself and having to put up with advertising on a video game console! Shouldn't I be getting these movies for free? Anyway, the movie took about an hour to download (the file was nearly five GB) with a super fast cable connection. Problem is, when I tried to download a similar file here at UGA, it took several days, not hours. This, combined with limited hard drive space, makes the service more of a novelty than a realistic alternative to netflix or blockbuster. The truth is, until storage space becomes signifantly larger (I'm talking terabytes here) and cheaper, digital distribution isn't a viable option. Not to mention the fact that a major university's isp is MUCH slower than the cable connection I have at home. Sorry to play devil's advocate, but I just don't see digital distribution taking off anytime soon. The ideas and tech are there, but the industry needs to play some serious catch up.

For now, I think I'll stick with either hd dvd or blu ray to get my high def fix. Hopefully, one will have "won" the battle before digital distribution finally rolls around in its entirety. Until recently, Blu Ray seemed to have the decided advantage, but a couple days ago, Paramount and Dreamworks decided to side with hd dvd exclusively. Maybe this will tip the scale in favor of hd dvd and hurry this nonsense up (fingers crossed).

(On an interesting side note, Blu Ray's success may hinge on the success of the Playstation 3, which, as many industry experts have lamented, has certainly been less impressive than predicted. Its not suprising to see arch enemies Microsoft and Sony backing different formats as the console war between PS3 and Xbox 360 heats up)

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