BD/HD on PCs – Why it’s not taking off

In my previous blog, I talked about a possible end scenario for the HD wars, albeit a fairly optimistic one. In this blog entry, I will look more at the present.

Neither Blu-ray or HD DVD has much of a foothold on the PC market as yet. This is not surprising when the cheapest HD DVD reader drive is actually an Xbox 360 accessory, and when the cheapest writer drive is, well, anything but cheap. And don’t get get me started on blank media – $18 for 25 GB works out to be about $0.72 per GB, 3 times more than DVD media (and an expensive brand of DVD media at that).

I have to say that HD DVD might have an advantage here, because their single layer media has less capacity than Blu-ray’s (as strange as this argument might seem). 15 GB, 30 GB and 45 GB seems like sensible sizes for storage media to me, the smaller size of the single layer media making things a bit more flexible, and seem like a more natural increment going from DVD storage to HD storage. 25 GB, 50 GB and 75 GB just seem a tad too big for my liking, and the prices will reflect that as well. Backups aside, I think I will find it very difficult to even find 50 GB worth of stuff to fit onto a single disc, let alone find the will to fork out $35 for the pleasure (not when, for double this amount, I can buy myself a 250 GB HDD). I’m also weary of putting so much stuff onto a single disc – if it gets damaged, rots or goes missing, losing 25 GB worth of stuff just because your dog has found a new chew toy will be a disaster. But being able to carry around 75 GB worth of stuff in a single disc is tempting I have to say, something that HD DVD will struggle to achieve unless it produces a 5-layer media …

CDs and DVDs all came out with reader-only (ROM) drives for the PC market long before writer drives took over (and many like me still have both ROM and writer drive on the same PC, to enable easier disc to disc copying). The writer drive delay was necessary from a technical point of view because writer drives and media were developed much later, but also made sense from a marketing point of view in that reader drives costs less and can be a good way to introduce people to the new media format. Sony’s strategy seems to skip the ROM drive altogether, and skip straight to writer drives. This could work to strengthen their grip on the format wars, or it could backfire and make the prices of these drives so high, that nobody is looking at them seriously. HD DVD writer drives are still rare, but it’s no surprise that the Xbox 360’s HD DVD reader drive is selling well, and many use it as a PC reader drive too. For me at least, I’m happy with my DVD writer/external HDD combo, but I would like a cheap BD/HD ROM drive to play with for the time being.

Tech savvy people will also want dual format readers, because future proofing is important, and nobody wants a piece of hardware that is useless in 3 years time, and certainly not two reader drives in the same PC.

To get me (a fairly early adopter of these kind of things) to buy a BD/HD drive for my computer, I think at the very least, these criteria have to be met first:

  • Has to at least read both BD/HD formats
  • Has to be able to write to all kinds of DVD media
  • Under $200 for a BD/HD writer drive, $100 for a BD/HD read-only drive
  • If buying a BD/HD writer drive, 15 GB HD media to drop below $4, 25 GB BD media drops to below $6

I say companies like Lite-on should forget about BD/HD writer drives for now and concentrate on dual format reader + DVD writer drive combos – if the cost is only slightly higher than standard DVD writers, I can definitely see people opting for these drives in their next computers instead, which would be a victory for both HD formats.


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