Cringely, in one of his long, drawn-out think pieces, explores the reasoning behind Apple’s failure to add Blu-Ray drives to their laptop and desktop line. His theory? Steve is holding out for HD streaming/downloads via iTunes rather than ceding the HD ground to plastic discs.
I tend to agree: this is the last physical format you will ever buy. There will be others available, I’m sure; holographic storage, perhaps, or blobs of biomemory? But the process of going to a store and buying a disc will and should be rendered obsolete. While disc manufacturers talk of low broadband adoption rates in the US, I suspect if they looked at the demographics that the folks they want to grab — teens and the 20-38 set — are ready and willing to sell all their disks and just download, albeit with less unctuous rental and sales terms.
Apple faces a number of challenges offering files of this size for download, the least of which is economic. Yes, it will probably cost Apple four times as much to offer downloads of a 1080p version of a movie than its 640-by-480 version, but the market is already expecting to pay an HD premium, at least for a while, so money isn’t really a major factor. The real speed bumps are the sheer impact of a true volume HD service on the Internet, itself, and the sad fact that most Macs can’t even play 1080p video. They simply aren’t powerful enough.
That said, Steve’s bet is a good one. He knows he took MP3s away from the hackers and gave them to your grandma. Now he can do the same with HD video, provided he has the hardware to do it. Apple TV isn’t quite there, but give it a few years and WiMax plus wireline networks will be ubiquitous. There are some parts of the world where 1 percent of the population even owns a DVD player, let alone is even thinking about a Blu-Ray player.
One interesting point Cringely makes is that the wedding video market is clamoring for HD disk burning.
What Steve doesn’t own and what is definitely at risk is the event video business, which is to say weddings. Here’s where the numbers take an interesting turn. There are more copies of Final Cut being used today to edit wedding videos than are being used for broadcast and cable TV and movies — a LOT more copies. Wedding videos are a $4 billion business in the U.S. alone and, unlike Hollywood, this is a business where the editing system typically also burns the DVDs that are distributed.
The kid’s got a point.