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Apple and Blu-ray: No Hollywood Ending Yet

15 Oct, 2008 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Apple’s speculated foray into Blu-ray will remain the grist of scuttlebutt after CEO Steve Jobs said the technology giant would not include the high-definition drive in its 2009 line of laptop computers.

"We're waiting until things settle down and Blu-ray takes off in the marketplace," Jobs told attendees Oct. 14 during a presentation at Apple’s Cupertino, Calif.-based headquarters.

The executive did characterize licensing aspects of Blu-ray as “a bag of hurt” without providing additional details. Apple is a founding board member of the Blu-ray Disc Association, which perhaps gives it first-hand exposure to a licensing process that mandates encryption, related DRM safeguards and is reportedly cumbersome and expensive.

“It is not only not cheap but a pain in the butt,” said independent technology analyst Rob Enderle.  

Indeed, Apple is no stranger to erecting obstacles itself as evidenced by the lack of third-party manufacturer access to its proprietary and lucrative iTunes platform.

Steve Baker, VP of industry analysis for NPD Group, believes the number of companies with a hand in the licensing process dissuaded Apple, which he said has migrated toward digital distribution rather than packaged media.

"[Apple is] not trying to be everything to everyone like Netflix or Blockbuster,” Baker said. “They're going to keep trying to deliver economy around digital downloads. I still question why anybody would question or care whether they have Blu-ray.”

Enderle said putting Blu-ray in a Mac laptop would be counter-strategic, as Apple is aggressively pursuing downloads and even eliminated optical drives in some products.

“Apple was an early supporter of Blu-ray but never did anything with it,” he said. “They don’t want to do HDMI either, which further takes them down a non-Blu path. Effectively, Apple has moved on.” 


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