I bought the HD-DVD Microsoft released for the XBox 360. I did so knowing the format may not win the format war. I did so because it was by far the cheapest way into HD quality DVD's. I did so because I wanted to support my company. I also did so knowing that I would probably never have a large HD-DVD collection even if the format won the war. I did so knowing it never mattered who would win the format war because people don't really want physical media anymore.
About 6 years ago I started ripping down my CD collection. Over the past 4 years I have ripped and re-ripped my DVD collection down in differing formats to suit the different platforms I want to view the movies on. About the same time I stopped buying DVD's all together because I wanted everything in digital format. I didn't want the physical media. It was just getting ripped down, tossed in a milk crate and then moved to the garage or the basement. Sad thing is I have to keep all of it around like a big, shiny, round proof of purchase receipt to stay legit.
About two weeks ago I was speaking to a user group about Vista and the topic of Media Center came up. In the course of the conversations, I explained the above and turns out a couple others in the UG have done the same thing. We know the physical media, regardless of the format, is NOT what we want. Give us the bits on the wire and let us stream it to our devices.
Hollywood - Please play catch up with the rest of the world - People are figuring out on their own homebrew solutions. The pirate community continues to provide exact duplicates of HD content in virtually every format conceivable. All the while Hollywood sits back and tries to figure out how to make it as difficult to purchase and consume the content we want.
Hollywood will get it figure out. They are going to drag their feet as long as they can, but it will happen. The paragraph above touches partly on a few of the reasons they will be forced into if they don't go willingly.
But it will happen.
Here is one solution
1) Offer up uncompressed, digital versions of a movie, with all the goodies and more that you are packing onto BluRay now
2) Offer up a piece of software that converts that movie to a format that will play on my Zune, my daughter's iPod, my laptop, from my Media Center to my HDTV.....in short, to any device I could possible think of.
3) Provide API's and other technical data to allow PlugIns to be developed to convert content to future formats and platforms.
then......Make obtaining #1 as simple as clicking a link on a web page. Make #2 so that it a) is Easy to figure out b) is Simple to use c) Works.
I am not going to pretend to know enough about how all of this impacts pricing plans, but I will say that $20 for a movie is too much. So is $15. Get new releases under $10 and you have everyone in your pocket. Certainly not having to deal with physical media reduces productions costs. Yes, you will have to invest in dome data centers or outsource the storage to someone, but that still has to cost less than printing physical media. Let's not forget how long that stuff hangs around a landfill either.
addendum - this rant has been on my plate for a long time. I have expressed these opinions in public several times to many, many people. I have been meaning to blog this for quite some time. What prompted it was this story on SlashDot - Blu-Ray gone in 5 years, Samsung Claims