Since Blu-ray was announced, there's been a lot of talk about its impending obsolescence in the face of digital downloads. Just last week, Samsung took a low blow at the format, predicting its lifespan to be only five years. Sony fired back, claiming that the "Blu-ray format will not only coexist with the networked era, but will actually enhance it for many years to come." I'm here to say, I don't give a crap that Blu-ray is living with an incurable disease, wasting away on intravenous feeding tubes stuffed with the cash of early adopters. It's, sadly, still the best option for me to watch hi def movies. Why?Digital downloads take too damn long to acquire You've been there. It's a Wednesday night, your butt is planted on the couch and you feet are on the coffee table. You splurge on some delivery and plan an impromptu movie night with your sweetie. "Let's download something." You pick out a film. And then you wait. Your dinner comes. And you eat in silence, watching a status bar trickle to a buffer point capable of playing the film without interruption. Want to download an HD clip? You'd better order it at lunchtime. The convenience of download, in terms of speed, is an illusion. There's limited content in HD If you are using a service that supports HD (which excludes popular download spots like Unbox right off the bat), chances are that the content you want to watch isn't in HD anyway. I know it's just a documentary, but I want to flex the muscles of my HDTV a bit. Don't make me pick through old, rotting produce. Chances are if I have the tech to download your movie, I have the tech to watch it in HD. The content in HD costs extra I'm still at a loss here. Why should I pay more to download a movie in HD? You can point to film remasterings, or argue that Blu-ray is priced at a premium too. But the simple fact is that Blu-ray will eventually be as price-friendly as DVD (pending its adoption) while downloading services will ALWAYS have the bandwidth excuse to charge you extra. And that HD download isn't coming with anything special other than the resolution that you can get free on freaking antenna broadcasts. That HD content might be compressed (not really HD) So you say you've found a service that gives you instant HD streaming? You didn't. They may call it 720P, but it's got more compression artifacts than Blu-ray any day. DRM restrictions are absurd I rented a movie the other day on my PS3. Lars and the Real Girl. But I made the mistake of previewing the content, just for 10 seconds or so, as it downloaded. Then I walked away. But when I returned the next night to watch the movie, oopsies, my 24 viewing window was up. The DRM was smart enough to know when I first loaded the movie, but didn't care as to whether or not I'd had a chance to actually watch it. Netflix and Blockbuster understand that plans change, and that's why they offer consumers a way to watch movies at their own pace. I don't trust digital formats to be less obsolete in the future than Blu-ray MPEG4, the codec that both Blu-ray and download services use, isn't going anywhere soon. But there's enough DRM on most downloads that not only links you to a specific platform (PS3/AppleTV), but a specific download service (iTunes, Unbox, etc) as well. Do I really believe that my Unbox purchases will be there 5, 10, or even 20 years from now? No. And if they are, will it be easy to access old hardware to bring up the service? Probably not. But VHS, DVD and Blu-ray will all plug into my TV for a long time to come. Unlike services that don't allow unlimited redownloads, I won't have to worry about swapping hard drives only to find SATA connections are dead for a better (read: incompatible) format with my PC. And Piracy Doesn't Make it Any Better Look, I'm not an 8-year-old living off some minuscule allowance. I don't have to make sure I have cash left for the movies after splurging one day at the comic book store. I want things to be simple, even if that means I have to pay for it. Bittorrent isn't all that easy. Unless you're downloading the latest, most popular content, good luck finding enough seeders to get a decent download speed...if you're lucky enough to find what you're looking for at all. I know what I'm saying isn't cool. I know that Blu-ray sits on a temporal fissure in the way media is delivered to us, probably teetering before it falls into an abyss beside its friend VHS. But at least I know where my Blu-ray is going—on my shelf, ready to watch whenever I choose at a quality I can appreciate with extras still not found in downloads. (Plus, if I insist on watching the movie on my computer, many Blu-rays are accommodating that anyway.) If that makes me old fashioned, then so be it. They don't make media like they used to.
I don't think digital downloads will completely replace physical media for some years to come (if ever). People like the idea of "owning" something and a physical object you can hold onto and doesn't disintegrate or wipe itself clean after a little while will always win out over intangible data with ugly restrictions. Hard drives or iPods break eventually and some downloads can't be played everywhere so those don't count as physical. Also, what ever happened to holographic disc. Seems like that will eventually take over from Blue-Ray due to its capacity and the continuation of the "disc" tradition.