Format wars

The New York Times reports that most people have decided to sit out the HD format war between Blu-ray and HD-DVD.

I’m one of them. I remember DCC vs MiniDisc. MiniDisc won, if by ‘won’ you mean ‘lingered for a few years longer’. I also remember SACD vs DVD-Audio. Both of those lost, in that even people who have DVD players capable of playing DVD Audio (like me) typically don’t bother to hook them up to support it (like me). I saw an SACD player in someone’s house at Christmas, but it was being used as a CD player.

As the guy from Sony admits, the improvement from DVD to HD is pretty marginal unless your TV is 40″ or greater. This seems to match my conclusions from comparing 1080i OTA HDTV to upscaled DVD on our TV.

Then there are the downsides. The most obvious being the sluggish performance. For Blu-ray, typically it takes 30 seconds after hitting the power button before the disc tray opens; 30 more seconds after inserting the disc before you see menus. Of course, that’s the optimistic case, it can be much worse. Assuming it actually works at all. And to think I get impatient waiting 10 seconds for my DVD player.

Then there’s region encoding. I like being able to buy UK TV shows and movies legally and watch them, and I’m not prepared to go back to having a disc player that’s limited to US releases. So I’m not buying Blu-ray until region-free players become available.

Then there’s ripping video. Sure, it’s kinda specialized, but as iPods and portable video players and video-capable phones become more commonplace, it’s increasingly appealing. I did consider ripping some TV shows to watch on my BlackBerry on the plane this Christmas.

So as far as I’m concerned, wake me when the war is over and I can get a player that plays the winning format, in all regions, for under $300. Until then, I’m not interested. Even if I get a PS3, I can’t see myself buying any Blu-ray discs.