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Is Blu-Ray Dead? A Closer Look at Blu-Ray

Is Blu-Ray dead as a media of choice?

Blu-Ray is Dead
Illustration: Gordon McAlpin

Blu-Ray is the video disc of the future, meant to replace DVDs everywhere. Unfortunately, Blu-Ray never really had a chance, and here are ten reasons why it’s time to write the Blu-Ray death warrant.

We take a closer look at Blu-Rays:

1. It’s still not the standard for new desktop PCs and laptops

Look around: Many new desktop and laptop PCs from Dell, HP, Toshiba and so on don’t have Blu-Ray. These drives add about $100 to the cost of the machine for little benefit: the screen size of a laptop and the built-in speakers are nowhere near what it takes to take advantage of Blu-Ray’s extra resolution and Dolby 5.1 sound.

2. The digital rights management on the disc side is severe and cumbersome

Blu-Ray copy protection standards are constantly evolving, making it extraordinarily difficult to convert a Blu-Ray disc into another media format for playing on a tablet or phone, for example. Even though you own the disc, they don’t want you doing that. Some Blu-Ray retail packages come with a free digital download, but that download is either restricted to iTunes or buried in even more digital rights management.

3. The digital rights management on the media player side is even worse

Who wants to get a new PC, with a shiny new Blu-Ray drive, and not have it play Blu-Ray discs at all? Because of Blu-Ray’s esoteric licensing, you have to use whatever media player comes with the system, and if you format your hard drive or experience a crash, you won’t be able to play discs anymore. Even popular play-anything media player VLC has a lot of trouble with Blu-Ray discs.

4. Who wants to upgrade the firmware on a piece of hardware? Not me

I think it’s ridiculous that standalone Blu-Ray players, the kind in your living room connected to your TV, won’t play newer discs a lot of the time. You have to be savvy enough to run a Ethernet cable or connect the player to your Wi-Fi network and upgrade the firmware. Are your grandparents really going to do that, or are they going to give up and take the machine back to the store?

5. Macs and Blu-Ray don’t mix

Our blog is focused on PCs at the present time, but it’s still worth pointing out that Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, dislikes Blu-Ray. Apple products have never included them, they’re not supported in OS X, and it takes a complicated workaround to use an external Blu-Ray drive with your Mac. Not worthwhile.

6. Streaming video is here. Get used to it.

Blu-Ray has run right into the streaming video revolution. Now, everyone streams their movies in hi-def from services like Netflix and Hulu, or people use applications like PlayOn to stream movies throughout the house to every device in the home. Because storage space is plentiful and cheap, and Internet speeds are at an all-time high, streaming video seems to be the way to go.

7. The disc drive is usually the first thing to go

As I said above, the Blu-Ray drive adds $100 to the price of your new machine, and drives often break down. The motor and lens can get dirty or break alogether, and since many drives are proprietary (meaning non-standardized), they’re expensive and difficult to replace.

8. PC retail software never embraced it

Almost no Windows software, from operating systems to utilities to games, is shipped on Blu-Ray discs. There just aren’t enough people who have those kinds of drives. Instead, multiple DVDs are used, if necessary.

9. The setup to take advantage of Blu-Ray is expensive and difficult

In order to take full advantage of the Blu-Ray experience, you need to output your video to a big monitor or television, and your sound to a Dolby 5.1 or 7.1 audio sound system. Most people just aren’t willing to do that.

10. Discs are just so last century

Like CDs for music, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs are going away in favor of streaming files and instant viewing services. A disc that has only one movie on it is fast becoming an archaic concept altogether.

Instead of spending the extra money to buy a Blu-Ray drive for your PC, get a nice external hard drive instead and load it up with legal movies to stream to your other devices. If you must have a Blu-Ray player in your home, buy a PlayStation 3. The Blu-Ray firmware automatically updates, and you can play games on it besides.

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