|Sales of Blu-ray discs are growing faster than those of conventional DVDs, but the technology could become obsolete soon.|
It's hard to walk into an electronics store, look at the racks of Blu-ray discs and not grit your teeth a bit. The film industry is making DVD buyers play format games again. It's hyping a product whose apparent successor, downloadable and streaming high-definition video, is 360 lines of resolution away from providing the same clarity without the trip to Best Buy ( BBY).
The industry knows the highest-quality video is already available and that you're wasting money by playing anything else on your fancy high-definition TV. That's why retailers charge $10 more for a Blu-ray disc over its DVD counterpart and Netflix ( NFLX) tacks on a $4-a-month surcharge for Blu-ray rentals. Blu-ray producers think they're doing you a favor by offering you BD-Live content directly from the Web instead of forcing you to buy more editions of the same disc you just repurchased. "The majority of people really do understand and appreciate the simplicity of a disc: You buy a disc, you drop it in your player, you hit play and beautiful video comes out," says Andy Parsons, a senior vice president at Pioneer Electronics' home-entertainment group and U.S. chairman of the Blu-ray Disc Association Promotions Committee. "Broadband distribution outlets have their places, but I think a lot of people don't understand how they work, don't know how to implement them or don't have enough broadband connection speed to get high-def out of them." In Blu-ray world, familiarity breeds contentment. In a survey by the Digital Entertainment Group, HDTV owners preferred discs over video streaming and downloads by nearly 10 to 1. Nearly 50 million Blu-ray discs have been sold worldwide, with Blu-ray's growth outpacing DVDs by almost 10 million discs at the same point in its lifespan.