The end of DVD’s

Technology is moving forward at a startling rate, think about how we get music – over the last 50 years we’ve gone from using records which were great for random access play (lift the needle, move to a different place on the record and drop gently), but were easily damaged, and not very portable (how many cars did you see that would play records – or how many joggers running with a record player strapped to their back?) – then came the cassette tape, this had some advantages over the record, these were portable, supported R/W capability (get bored with the music you’re listening to, then record over the old content), but also had disadvantages, they were also somewhat fragile, and didn’t support random access. Then came the CD-Rom, these support random access, WORM cabability, are pretty robust, and portable (cars have CD players as standard, and of course portable CD-Players) – next came the portable MP3/WMA player, the RIO or iPod devices, these support WARM, are robust, portable, and support random access – best of all, you don’t need to purchase a music CD to get content onto these portable players, you can purchase and download content directly from iTunes, or MSN Music, or other music services – is this the beginning of the end for CD’s? – in some respects this is a good thing, the manufacture and distribution of physical media is expensive, it’s so much easier to get the music you want downloaded to your favorite music player devices.

So what does this have to do with DVD’s ? – Think about the changes in video technology, VHS Tapes, to DVD’s, and now video on demand from your cable provider, or video download over the internet to devices like the Akimbo – it’s not going to be long before internet bandwidth is capable of supporting live video over the wire without any need for a cable set top box, this means that we’re getting to the point when you won’t need to visit Blockbusters to get a DVD of the latest movie, you can simply order online, download to your media player and watch whenever you want – and with the introduction of portable media players like the Portable Media Center you really can get your media where and when you want it.

– Mike

Comments (9)

  1. Gabe says:

    I agree as long as DRM isn’t so restrictive that no one will use it. I, for one, would love to buy a "virtual dvd". The thing holding me back is that when I get a new computer (or cable box), will I still be able to watch my movie? Can I transfer it easily between devices? If it’s stored online (and maybe just cached on the divice), can I still watch the movie I payed for? What if my content provider is bought out or go’s out of business?

    What about individual / small time shops? I love being able to create DVDs from home movies and give them to family members. Will a virtual system allow me to easily do this? If so, it would need to be vendor neutral. (I’m sorry, you can only watch my movie form a comcast cable box).

    In the end, the challenges for a virtual distribution system that is as simple has physical media are great. If they can be meet, then we will see a transition, if not, long live DVD!

  2. DG says:

    I’m not so certain. The changes from wax cylinder to LP to 8-Track to Cassette to CD are all changes in medium driven by technology. The material being delivered isn’t changing between CDs and MP3 players – it’s still digital, so the change is no longer technology, it’s delivery. The rub is that while current broadband access may be enough to support downloads of single songs via ITunes or similar stores, (1) only 50% of the US population has broadband access, and (2) current broadband access is woefully inadequate for real, high-definition video on demand.

    There are also usability issues to be overcome. TiVO has been out for a few years now, and is only now evolving into a usable product – that is in danger of losing out thanks to changes in its usability model driven by advertising. Until the convergence of ultra-broadband bandwidth, extreme usability for users and ubiquitous management of things like digital rights, transmission protocols and transmission/media standards are all worked out, I think it’s a bit too early to be predicting the end of anything. In fact, there is still a large and loyal following for the LP, audiophiles who claim that it still provides truer audio fidelity than CDs – so it all comes full circle.

  3. Mike says:

    While I agree that network bandwidth for the general population isn’t high enough to provide all video/audio content on demand there’s definately a change coming, devices like TiVo are starting this change, providing time-shifting for video content, watch the content when you want to view it, not when it’s on.

    The same is also true of Video on Demand, which is rolling out from a number of cable operators – once you purchase a DVD movie how many times do you watch the movie in a given year, once, twice? – does watching the movie over Video on Demand at $4.00 per viewing make more sense than purchasing a DVD at $20 and then only watching it a couple of times ?

    I would say that this trend is just starting, we’re going to get to the point where your music and perhaps video is purely virtual, you don’t own any physical media, you can either view on demand for a one time fee, or pay extra to "own" the content, in which case you could copy to a number of devices – of course DRM will need to be implemented to ensure that copy protection is in place on your content.

    Wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to travel to any hotel in the world and have the set top box provide access to the TV shows you’ve scheduled to be recorded, and also give you access to your entire music collection ?

    – Mike

  4. Mark Doherty says:

    I’ve heard these kind of comments before and my response is …. hooey!

    If video on demand will crush the DVD market then music on demand should be crushing the demand for CD’s, correct?

    Except that in countries where music on demand is already legally (and readily) accessible, demand for CDs is rising again after a period in the doldrums. It’s impossible to say why, but my guess is that people (like me) are getting exposed to new music they actually like via the net/other people’s MP3 collection and buying it in CD format. That’s certainly the case for me and most of my friends.

    Likewise, the advent of the video store was expected to destroy the home sales market – instead, it *fueled* it. After all, the same argument applies: why buy a DVD for 20 bucks, when you can rent it for 4 – and get a bottle of coke in the bargain?

    But people do – in their tens of millions.

    Most people – including me – like to buy a physical object. I routinely transfer movies to my hard disk or iPod to take away and watch somewhere else without the hassle of lugging the actual discs around. But hard drive crashes happen. Personally, if I’m going to pay, I like having a physical backup sitting on the shelf.

    Not only that, but CDs and DVDs make great gifts. It’s just not the same to say "Oh and Honey, I downloaded "the Incredibles" to to your hard drive."

    So video on demand could change the distribution market – but I foresee the both the CD and the DVD being with us for a while.

    cheers, Mark

  5. Riki says:

    The bugbear i have with mp3/wma is quality, I own an OK stereo (go NAD) and 128/160/192bps just isn’t a touch on a CD. I won’t buy online until they up the quality buy a couple of orders of magnitude, so it’s better than CD.