When the DVD arrived during the mid-90s as a superior storage medium to VHS tapes, it took nearly eight years before it was finally able to outstrip VHS in sales. Some tech experts predict that the same thing will happen between DVD and Blu-ray, but this latest storage format is facing additional obstacles that might lead to it becoming like the Laserdisc technology of the early 80s.
When compared to DVDs, Blu-ray outstrips them in nearly every way. A single layer DVD, for example, can carry about 4.7 GB of data, whereas a single layer Blu-ray disc carries over five times that amount, allowing it to store more special features. Blu-ray also has much better picture quality and sound, and the discs themselves are coated with a protective layer that makes them more durable. DVDs still have faster loading times, but the newer Blu-ray players are improving this.
If Blu-ray provides better storage and higher quality video, then why do DVD sales still outperform Blu-ray in the marketplace? The higher cost of Blu-ray is the main reason most people decide not to purchase this format. Blu-ray discs cost an additional $10 from patent fees, while DVDs have plummeted in price, becoming as cheap as $8. Those who have spent thousands already on their DVD libraries are highly unlikely to replace them all at $30 each. Moreover, the library of movie titles in DVD format is much larger, and it will take some time for Blu-ray to catch up if it ever does.
Blu-ray also suffers from a lack of hardware support when compared to DVDs. Blu-ray discs require larger, higher quality HDTVs to show their worth, unlike DVDs that have always been superior to VHS regardless of the TV. The hardware needed to play DVDs is also much cheaper and more widespread, making them a more popular choice when it comes to media sharing. For example, a Verbatim DVD-R 50 pack is only a third of the cost of six Verbatim BD-R 25 GB discs. The 50 pack also offers more total space and a greater chance of finding a compatible player since nearly everyone has at least one DVD drive.
Lastly, the demand for media storage devices is slowly beginning to disappear with the advent of high-speed Internet connections. Instead of checking out a physical copy, many consumers will use a cable or satellite-owned Video On Demand service or subscribe to an online streaming site such as Netflix. While the quality and stability of streaming technology is not up to par with Blu-ray at the moment, it is only a matter of time until connection speed and availability improves enough that most households will switch to streaming methods for their entertainment. Blu-ray may very well be the last physical storage medium to exist on the market.
While more time is needed before a clear assessment of Blu-ray’s future can be made, predictions that it would outsell DVDs by the year 2012 has been shown to be false, largely due to streaming technology and higher costs.
Brandi Tolleson is a freelance writer who resides in the Los Angeles area who writes on technology, media and ecommerce.