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Blu-ray Ready to Spread Its Wings

9 Jan, 2010 By: Thomas K. Arnold

I had a very interesting conversation with a gentleman from Intel this afternoon on the show floor of CES in Las Vegas. Demonstrating Intel's new core processors, he noted that computers are being asked to do so much more these days, particularly in the way of high-definition video, that processor speed needs to come up -- hence, Intel's new line, which even has a "turbo" function to really rev things up when needed. He held up a JVC high-definition video camera and told me the cost has come down by half since Christmas, and when I told him I had held off buying one mainly because I wasn't sure my computer could handle it, he said, "Yeah, don't waste your time burning high-definition video of your summer vacation to DVD. You need Blu-ray."

That opened up a whole conversation about Blu-ray's current limitation in the portability realm, including the conspicuous lack of Blu-ray Disc drives in laptops and PCs. That's all about to change, he told me, because the cost of these Blu-ray Disc drives has plummeted.

"It used to be it would add $200 or $300 to the cost of a laptop, and when you're talking about a list price of $600 to $800, that's a big deal," he said. "But now, the upcharge can be as little as $100, so now it finally makes sense."

Hopefully he's right. For Blu-ray to really flourish, we need mass playback devices, and that includes computers. I continue to be amazed that Blu-ray drives are not yet standard in computers, particularly given the capacity issues we're now facing across the board with virtually all media. Three years ago the average digital image, from a point-and-click digital camera, was 800K; today, it's 5MB. And as my friend at Intel said, "We're now looking at 4GB of high-def video footage, just from a kid's birthday party." My hunch is that particularly now that the price of drives has fallen, we're going to see a proliferation of computers with Blu-ray Disc drives, maybe even as standard equipment. To not do so at ths point simply doesn't make any sense."

At the same time, I expect more portable Blu-ray disc players such as the one displayed by Toshiba, and hopefully some car units as well. At the Audiovox booth I saw a new car DVD player with a built-in PlayStation 2. Great idea, I thought to myself, but this is a marriage of two outdated technologies. Why not offer a combo Blu-ray Disc/PlayStation 3 car unit? You'd think that might even be easier, since a PlayStation 3 already has a Blu-ray Disc drive built in. Hey, now that's an idea -- the next generation of car players would simply consist of a PlayStation 3, which can double as a game and movie machine. Sony, are you listening?

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