Hopscotch and the Blu-Ray dilemma

John
John Gushue
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A few weeks ago, a friend of mine was pondering whether to make the Blu-Ray jump. Christmas was coming, prices were dropping and the high-def format never seemed more alluring.

My five-cent opinion at the time was to wait - but not too long. Retailers like Future Shop, I pointed out, could be counted on to deliver Boxing Day sales with even more attractive prices.

Surf's up - A few weeks ago, a friend of mine was pondering whether to make the Blu-Ray jump. Christmas was coming, prices were dropping and the high-def format never seemed more alluring.

My five-cent opinion at the time was to wait - but not too long. Retailers like Future Shop, I pointed out, could be counted on to deliver Boxing Day sales with even more attractive prices.

That turned out to be the case, but after a little more thought, I have an alternate - but not necessarily better, depending on your circumstances - piece of advice: just wait even longer for the home-video marketplace to be shaken even further.

More to the point, wait for your Internet connection and a new and improved storage system to make the idea of discs, even those cool Blu-Ray jobbies, almost obsolete.

Some background on how head-spinningly fast things are getting. Only last year, Blu-Ray conquered the competing high-def format, HD-DVD, which practically vanished when it lost key studio support. However, Blu-Ray's victory may ultimately become kind of Pyrrhic.

Sure, this last Christmas season was a breakthrough year. Starting prices for players have broken the $200 mark, and discs themselves are dropping steadily in price, especially for older items in distributors' catalogues.

But the seeds have already been sown, I think, for the next great leap forward - one that will prove to be a sort of video hopscotch, with many consumers able to hop right over one impressive technology and into something even cooler.

The future is about downloading and storage. In fact, it could be about downloading and not even having to worry about storage.

Already, iTunes has started selling "rentals" of popular movies; that is, you download a movie with a shelf-life of just one day. With movies meant for permanent purchase, iTunes has been rapidly ramping up a service that offers variety and safe, easy downloads.

Consider also Netflix, which has also branched solidly into the online sales business. Founded more than a decade ago, Netflix has built a dedicated following of subscribers who pay a flat rate for its rent-by-mail service. Now, though, its business model is shifting, with streaming video.

Now, if the phrase "streaming video" makes you think of grainy YouTube items, worry not. A high-def world is upon us, as content owners and Internet providers work toward a market that will make our old video collections seem, well, quaint.

Instead of discs, I imagine we'll store much of our video collection on servers, or maybe even slim, book-like devices that can each hold, say, a small library of movies or TV shows.

What's missing? Critical mass, for one, as well as a greater array of consumer-ready products that can better marry your computer with your TV and your other entertainment devices. The pieces are all on the market now. All they really need is a better, plug-and-play set-up. It's coming, though. Just think of how iTunes, to name the market leader, reworked the business model for digital musical sales in a few short years.

And we're not even talking about the underground trade in torrents, with millions of downloaders freely helping themselves to digital goodies.

So, if you have some cash and want to take advantage of a high-def TV set, go ahead and enjoy. If you can live with what you've got, or you're a little more adventurous, dive in.

Welcome, Lexulous

Last year, when Hasbro forced the two Indian brothers who had built the popular game Scrabulous to get off Facebook, I was among hundreds of thousands of saddened users. Hasbro felt Scrab-ulous was just too much like its trademarked game Scrabble.

Rather than being able to cut a deal with the Agarwalla brothers - who built a devoted following with a game that was simple, easy to use and just plain fun - Hasbro insisted on developing its own online version of Scrabble for Facebook. The result? Complex graphics, slow loads for every ... single ... move, and no fun at all. Yech.

On New Year's Day, I got some delightful news. Scrabulous is back on Facebook, sort of. It's now renamed Lexulous, and there are a few small differences (you'll notice eight letters now in your turn, rather than the usual seven). Otherwise, it's all there ... including the games that were suspended long ago.

If you're on Facebook, just search Lexulous. And bank on giving up some free time!

John Gushue is a news writer for CBCNews.ca in St. John's. E-mail: surf@thetelegram.com. Read past Surf's Up columns and daily updates at his blog: johngushue.typepad.com.

Organizations: Future Shop, Netflix, Hasbro

Geographic location: St. John's

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  • Ryan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    One of LG's new Blu-Ray players has Netflix / Youtube / CinemaNow integrated into it. I think we'll see more of this in the future as a way for the format to stick around a little longer.

  • Mike
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    I think on-demand video is not a viable format at the moment. While I would love to have all my movies on a small hard drive that I could browse through, at the moment the quality just doesn't match up to Blu-Ray. Even HD from the major TV providers is overly compressed. As nice as this sounds I think we are a long way off from something of Blu Ray quality from on online format.

  • Ryan
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    One of LG's new Blu-Ray players has Netflix / Youtube / CinemaNow integrated into it. I think we'll see more of this in the future as a way for the format to stick around a little longer.

  • Mike
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    I think on-demand video is not a viable format at the moment. While I would love to have all my movies on a small hard drive that I could browse through, at the moment the quality just doesn't match up to Blu-Ray. Even HD from the major TV providers is overly compressed. As nice as this sounds I think we are a long way off from something of Blu Ray quality from on online format.