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February 17, 2008

You can get away with a three-letter initialism as a product name, but if you try to stretch it to five, you're sunk. HD DVD? It never really had a chance, particularly when it was up against a snappy futuristic-sounding name like Blu-Ray. If the Jetsons had decided to get a second dog to keep Astro company, they would have named it Blu-Ray.

Can't you picture Elroy throwing the happy pup some kind of electronic chew-toy gizmo?

Fetch, Blu-Ray!

HD DVD? It sounds like the start of a confirmation code for a car-rental reservation.

Wal-Mart finally gave the thumbs-down on HD DVD a couple of days ago, mercifully driving a stake into the wounded technology's heart. Yesterday, Toshiba made it official: It betamaxed HD DVD. Sayonara.

Wired says the whole format war was meaningless, a pyrrhic battle over a phantom market. Plain old DVDs will suffice for most folks until movie downloading becomes routine.

That may be right, but I think the death of HD DVD gives Sony and its Blu-Ray bedmates a big opening. Having two different formats out there was confusing to most folks. It caused a kind of consumer paralysis. Now that Blu-Ray is the only dog in the hunt, people may, in large quantities, feel comfortable trading in their DVD players for machines that will make their movies look a bit better on their family-room-spanning flatscreens. It's going to be a while before the mass market is ready to get rid of the physical containers for films and entrust its entertainment to the bit-spewing cloud.

What Sony needs now is a marketing campaign that lives up to the Blu-Ray name. If I were in charge, I'd call in the Jetsons.


Wired may be right in the download/PPV market being the next big thing. I'm usually an early adopter, and if my entertainment habits are any sign, blu-ray will never achieve the raw numbers of that which it replaces.

I haven't bought a movie in physical media for myself in well over 2 years. I did buy a DVD set of Lost for my parents. I own it in iTunes format for viewing over my Apple TV. They do use iTunes, but have no way of pumping it over to their TV.

Every new movie I watched (several per month) was watched over pay-per-view (HD version when available) and now via my updated Apple TV. Between the two, I'll be covered. I've got a collection of over 300 DVDs that sit on a couple shelves in my house that are just collecting dust, except for maybe a dozen. I won't be making that mistake with blu-ray. Especially with the higher price point.

Last year I spent over $700 at the iTunes store. With my Apple TV now renting, I'm sure it will only go up from there.

Posted by: Walt at February 17, 2008 10:50 AM

I agree completely. Back when the "PC Card" standard was called "PCMCIA" the joke was that it stood for "People Cannot Memorize Computer Industry Acronyms."

Rampant acronymization has complicated the already double ungood political rhetoric of our current society. It's just a few years before we migrate from NCLB, FISA and DMCA to calling Habeas Corpus "HC" and Due Process "DP".....

Acronyms used to "stand for" something -- they were abbreviations (in the literal sense of that word) for phrases that everybody knew and could say out loud (or write out fully) if they chose to. (One outstanding exception: chemistry abbreviations in the hands of laypeople: LSD, DNA, DDT, etc....)

Today the acronym has become the marketing vehicle, so in the case of HD-DVD, the problem is perhaps not that it isn't Blu-Ray, but perhaps that it follows the "old school" approach to acronyms - we know what it means; it just doesn't motivate us. Perhaps it should have been PATRIOT-DVD.

Posted by: rpetersen at February 18, 2008 01:03 AM

Fascinating that Sony finally won a standards battle, years after losing the Betamax war. But they had to buy a studio to do it.

Steve Jobs learned from Sony and has all his ducks in a row. He recently introduced the MacBook Air without a DVD player, and the comment that it was not needed because the machine uses wireless and the Internet. With iTunes and Apple TV, he's doing to same to video downloads that he did with audio. He will also be selling iPhone software over iTunes in a few weeks.

Amazon seems to be his only real competition.

Posted by: Norm Potter at February 18, 2008 05:56 AM

Great blog.

I agree with others, this is a war where the 'win' is ephemeral. In a few years, the idea of selling plastic disks with content will be long forgotten.

Sony won the battle, but the war is over.

Posted by: fishtoprecords at February 18, 2008 04:40 PM

Check out the big brain on Nicholas! Why didn't you publish your "all-acronyms-with-more-than-3-letters-is-crap-theory" a year ago? It's easy to analyze things in retrospect.

I'm sure Betamax was a much sexier name than VHS at the time and yet VHS became the standard. Or here, another example of a successful acronym: CD-ROM.

Best wishes,

Posted by: Ringelnatz at February 19, 2008 09:53 AM

“Da ich auf meinem Laptop mit dem Windows-Vista-Mediacenter gute Erfahrungen gemacht habe,” is Germany getting a different Vista shipped or are you just a lucky customer Ringelnatz?


Posted by: alan at February 19, 2008 11:25 AM


I consider myself lucky, but not because of such profane things as computer operating systems stability.

Yes, I personally cannot tell anything bad about Vista. But that's only my first hand experience on three machines at home (including my new Media Center machine, on which I write this post in this very moment watching the Chapions's League match Liverpool vs. Inter Milan in another window on my TV).

But I understand that there can be problems in a transitional period. But had harder times in the nineties I must say...


P.S.: No, there is no Vistapo oder Vistasi inn Germany.
P.P.S: BTW - I'm not a German.

Posted by: Ringelnatz at February 19, 2008 04:42 PM

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