Let’s not beat around the bush— Blu-ray has been disliked since it first appeared on the tech industry’s radar. And this controversial technology had even the most open-minded tech experts scratching their heads trying to figure out why it was here and why it was so expensive. Well, today’s industry pros are singing a different tune. Rumor has it: Blu-ray is only here to stay because it had a little help from its friends HDTV and Netflix, just to name a few. Industry experts say the Blu-ray market has a bright future ahead of it. They can see these Blu-ray devices growing, evolving and settling into living rooms nationwide—however, they warn there are a few allowing conditions to this perfectly painted future. Unfortunately experts say Blu-ray’s fate lies in the hands of another—actually, there are a couple pairs of hands controlling Blu-ray’s future.
Confirming the rumor, Forrester analyst James L. McQuivey reports that Blu-ray can’t stand on its own. McQuivey claims there are two ways to interpret early adopters of Blu-ray: “They are either a model of consumers yet to come or a high-end exception that will fail to extend to the masses.” Currently, his results show that Blu-ray players are falling into the hands of a niche of aggressive multi-platform viewers, leaning this tug-of-war towards the high-end exception. What could even this out and defuse that niche to a broader audience of videophiles? Bruce Leichtman, President of Leichtman Research Group Inc., thinks he has the answer: HDTVs.
Leichtman says HDTVs are the biggest driver of Blu-ray sales, and that is only the beginning of this dependency for the duo. He says the lowering price points for higher quality HDTVs is today’s main factor helping the Blu-ray market grow. “Blu-ray is surviving because of the evolution of HDTVs,” he claims. “In 2006, one out of every six households had an HDTV and now the ratio is one of two.” Leichtman calls Blu-ray players the “Trojan Horse of connectivity,” because it will sneak into living rooms across America and ambush TVs with Internet connectivity and endless streaming abilities. The sneakiness from this analogy refers to the fact that people the majority consumers don’t quite know Blu-ray’s actual capabilities.
Similarly, Consumer Reports’ Senior Editor of Electronics Jim Willcox thinks that currently, consumers have been treating Blu-ray players just like DVD players, and haven’t quite explored all of its multi-platform possibilities. “The transition from DVD player to Blu-ray player, for those who have them, has been an easy one because of the Blu-ray disc,” says Willcox. “People are used to discs so the Blu-ray player appealed as something familiar and accessible.”
For example, Willcox says most people don’t take advantage of the BDLive feature of their Blu-ray players. BDLive is a newer feature found on profile 1.0 and 2.0 Blu-ray players that enables users to download additional content for their Blu-ray movie. Even though, Willcox says the current BDLive is not as compelling as it could be, there is still a lot to be seen and said about this feature. Disney’s BDLive delivers a real-time connection to Disney’s menus that feature games, quizzes, new movie trailer, extra features for certain movies, and even more. Willcox says most companies using BD live like Disney are only scratching the surface, and he’d like to see their BDLive stream actual live events taking place at Cinderella’s Castle in Disney World. Apparently, BDLive has yet to fulfill a few of its earlier promises about its future capabilities.
With that being said, why would Blu-ray sales pick up soon? Well, Willcox names two good reasons why Blu-ray sales will pick up and gain a new found consumer following: Blu-ray price points are aggressively lowering, and Blu-ray has the potential to offer compelling services. Willcox says we’ll be seeing new pricing trends for Blu-ray players this holiday season with $99 being a “psychological sweet-spot” for consumers—its under $100, but still pricey enough to hold a trustworthy value. “Black Friday this year we’re going to see a bunch of mainstream Blu-ray players at $99,” he claims. “And the ones a step-up from those will probably be at a $150 price point.”
Willcox also believes Blu-ray sales will pick up speed because of their new compelling streaming features. “We’re going to see more ‘hybrid-players’ that are smaller and portable and are partnering with companies like Netflix, Blockbuster Online, and Vudu,” he says. “These features will prolong Blu-ray’s life and get people to notice it. Unfortunately, Willcox can also see these services being redundant on the players and boring future Blu-ray consumers.
In contrast, Leichtman thinks everyone is missing the point of why Blu-ray is really here and why people will buy it. “People often tend to look to deep and they get obscured by the details,” he says. “When it really comes down to it: Blu-ray will give your movies the best quality picture available.” Leichtman thinks the Blu-ray/HDTV combo is the ultimate home theater experience, and once people recognize that they’ll start to a little kinder to the Blu-ray name. Leichtman also admits the lowering price point is another good reason to buy a Blu-ray player. He too recommends waiting for those Black Friday and Cyber Monday specialty lows.
Luckily, it looks like Blu-ray will finally having its year—starting this 2009 holiday season and continuing strong into 2010. Apparently, the lower price points and additional features were enough to make consumers take a second glance at this once despised technology. Even though the Blu-ray following is still a select few, these industry buffs say that’s all going to change. Of course, there are some folks out there that still feel Blu-ray is pointless, but Leichtman reaffirms that once people experience the quality of entertainment they may change their minds.
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