Whether you love or hate Apple one thing you’ve got to concede is that it’s good at spotting technology trends and building products around them. To this day it’s the only company that offers consumers an entire ecosystem of gadgets (computers phones media players) that integrate together out of the box.
But cast your mind back to 2000 when Apple nearly mis-stepped by betting that DVD players rather than CD burners in computers would be big with consumers. With the market still immature Jobs quickly got Apple back on track by including CD burners (and DVD burners in their top end machines) in all but their low-end iMacs and launched the now infamous ‘Rip Burn Mix’ campaign.
Fast forward to now when the iTunes store is the largest retailer of music in the world and when Apple announces that customers are now renting over 50000 movies and TV shows per day and you’ll get a sense of why Apple is stalling on Blu-ray.
There’s likely to be one winner in the HD space and the less legitimacy Apple (who is the leader in the video production space via its Final Cut franchise) gives to Blu-ray the less likely the format is to succeed.
In Apple’s world of course all media should come via the iTunes cloud. And if it doesn’t come from iTunes it should be created or ripped by the user. In Apple’s world the more media that consumers purchase from iTunes the more powerful and valuable its formats platform and hardware proposition becomes.
But it’s far from Apple’s fault that Blu-ray has been a failure in market take-up so far. Sure you can buy a PS3 with an included Blu-ray player for $699 but the cheapest standalone Blu-ray player in Australia is still around the $450 mark and most Blu-ray media still cost upwards of $30 per disk.
The issue of quality is also relevant. While Blu-ray provides a better picture than DVD HD downloads from iTunes also look vastly better than DVD too.
In an article at Ars Technica Jacqui Cheng says “People are happy enough with the way regular DVDs look on their HDTVs that it’s not worth dropping another USD$200+ (plus even more to cover the more expensive movie purchases and rentals) on a Blu-ray player.”
Other analysts including the much cited Rob Enderle says ”There are increasing concerns that this holiday season will be [retail's] last real shot with Blu-ray.”
However unlikely that Apple will include Blu-ray burners in its consumer computers rumours point to Blu-ray support showing up in the next version of OS X 10.5.6. Maybe Apple will offer a Blu-ray option on the flagship Mac Pro to satisfy the demands of the professional video set who are desperate to jump into HD?
Either way Apple is stalling on Blu-ray for as long as it can and consumers don’t care. The longer Apple can hold off Blu-ray the better its chances of dominating the market for video and TV show downloads like it does for music.