I can't recall a new media format taking as much heat from consumers and the press
as I have seen with Blu-ray... tagging it as an unneeded upgrade to DVD and too expensive.
While there may be some truth to one of those arguments, no one should doubt the superior picture and sound quality the format produces.
Sure you can get a DVD player that upscales, but doing that just isn't up to HD quality let alone 1080p. The bottom line in regards to Blu-ray is that it is the best format for Hi-Definition movies currently available.
However, the past few years have given rise to music, games, and software being mostly consumed through digital downloads. DVD's have been slow to fade away and Blu-ray keeps picking up steam. On the other hand, movies at this current moment are primarily still consumed through a physical media.
Netflix has really been the only leader in terms of pushing digital distribution of movies with their pioneering of streaming movies to PC and the Xbox 360.
So naturally it was of great interest to everyone when Microsoft announced Zune Video Service for the Xbox Live with the ability to display streamed movies at 1080p resolution and 5.1 surround sound.
Instantly the Internet was awash in predictions of Blu-ray's coming demise. There is no denying that Zune will be a huge step forward for the digital distribution of movies, but will it really kill the DVD and Blu-ray formats? The answer is a simple one. No.
Sure Zune will be able to match the sound and picture quality of Blu-ray, made even more amazing by the fact that it will do this streaming. However, in order to get 1080p and 5.1 surround sound you will have to have a fast enough connection otherwise you will lose picture and sound quality.
The only option for those picture junkies without an 8-10Mbps connection would be to download the movie, which Zune will do, however it will not be instantly available to watch like it would be with Zune's streaming technology.
A lot of people by now have a Hi-Speed connection, but not everyone does, often times people seem to forget that there are over 62 million people that live in rural areas that do not get 8-10Mbps internet connections.
The age of Hi-Speed Internet has been going on for a while now, but it is still growing, which means that as more and more people get access to faster speeds, more and more bandwidth will be taken up.
Internet Providers such as Comcast are already in the process of trying to put a cap on internet usage much like cell phone service providers capping minutes.
Comcast has already started to test different internet packages in select areas which offer more or less Gig's depending on the package, which means that a ten gig 1080p movie stream might not seem so enticing anymore once you've watched ten or twelve movies on a billing cycle.
I'm not trying to harp on Zune here. I'm just simply stating that while Zune is a great product, and like Blu-ray, it has a few downsides.
The practice of internet capping by providers is going to happen. Where there is money there is greed. Combine that with the fact that not everyone has a high enough speed connection to really take advantage of Zune.
In the end I think Zune will be a successful venture for Microsoft. I just don't think that it will be the end or even the beginning of the end for the physical media format.
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