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Hedging Bets on Blu-Ray But Still Disappointed (and Blog Roundup)

This article was written by in Consumer. 23 comments.


Last year, I decided to become a “late early adopter” by taking the jump to high-definition entertainment. I upgraded my equipment, including a Toshiba HD DVD player. While cognizant of the HD format wars, I went ahead with HD DVD because the equipment was better priced for the mass market. I thought thought that due to pure economics, this format would win despite its technical inferiority to Blu-Ray. I decided to hedge my bet and asked my girlfriend for a Blu-Ray player for the holidays.

Recently, more movie studios have agreed to support Blu-Ray exclusively, so despite HD DVD’s connectivity and interactivity features — none of which were ready on Blu-Ray — people seem to be declaring that Blu-Ray has won the format war. Shortly after this announcement, the Blu-Ray camp announced that players on the market now (except for the one built into the Playstation 3 game console) will not be able to play most future Blu-Ray discs thanks to technological advances that won’t be backwards compatible. Even though I thought I was covering all my bases, I lost the format war. The consumers always lose.

Here are some articles I’ve enjoyed recently:

NCN from No Credit Needed is expecting his third child and is building a better budget to take into account a lower income and higher expenses in some categories. Luckily there are some expenses that will decrease thanks to the new responsibilities — the fun expenses like vacations.

Perhaps J.D. from Get Rich Slowly should have written Tech Lust: How to Cope With Gadget Envy before I decided to upgrade to high definition. Actually, I don’t believe any of my friends have yet done this upgrade, so it was a decision I made without peer pressure. J.D. is not completely against the idea of giving into your urge to splurge. He has some tips for being smart about it — saving properly rather than going into debt and waiting.

Are you considering collecting unemployment rather than taking a job? An article on Free Money Finance explains why very few jobs are worse than unemployment. I agree — don’t quit your job unless you’re quite sure you have something new in the bag. Of course, there are exceptions. And sometimes, if you’re laid off or fired, you don’t have much of a choice. But in most cases, you’re in control of your situation, so it pays off to always be prepared.

Pinyo from Moolanomy is disappointed with Dave Ramsey’s advice about 529 Plans. 529 Plans are investment accounts designed to pay for college for yourself or a family member. Many of these plans are offered by states, and some of the best tax-advantaged benefits are limited depending on what school your child decides to attend. I tend to agree with Dave Ramsey; most 529 Plans are too inflexible. If your child decides not to attend college, be prepared to pay a hefty penalty if you ever want to see your funds again.

Published or updated January 17, 2008. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Pinyo

Flexo, thank you for sharing my article with your readers.

I fully expect that my son will attend college; otherwise, we are going to have some serious talk. I think college will be the new high school in two decades.

I am not too worry about the withdrawal penalty because I can transfer it to my grandchildren if necessary.

Now, if he doesn’t go to college and decide to not have a child, then I am screwed. :-)

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avatar Brian

Full disclosure: I own neither an HD-DVD nor Blu-Ray player.

But you hit the nail on the head with this whole “war”. The consumer lost. There isn’t a “winner” in this war. Blu-ray’s only technical advantage was higher-capacity discs. Their prototype “standard” crippled the platform, and is just now catching up with features that HD-DVD players had from the start.

On the flipside of the coin, HD-DVD came to be partially because of Microsoft’s insistence that their flavor of DRM be in the system. MSFT thought that by having their DRM both in HD-DVD and Windows Vista machines, the transition to digital downloads through Vista would be easier in the future.

Also screwed by these two groups’ greed is the videogame consumer. Many Blu-Ray supporters only supported it because they already owned a BR player in the form of a PS3. This fueled the format war, with Blu-Ray claiming higher software sales, and strong-arming consumers into buying the PS3 by keeping the prices on standalone Blu-Ray players very high, hundreds of dollars more than a PS3.

So yes, you got screwed. People who just want Hi-Def movies, like me, got screwed because I refused to spend hundreds on a 50/50 bet. People who bought first-gen BR 1.0 players, not all of which are even upgradeable to 1.1 profile, got screwed. Video gamers who just want to play Metal Gear Solid were forced to spend excessive amounts on a PS3 because of Sony’s shoehorning of the BR drive into the machine.

OK, rant over. And on a lighter note Flexo, your player will always be able to player the film portion of future Blu-Ray titles, you just won’t have special features such as picture-in-picture commentary or downloadable content.

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avatar NCN

Hey Flexo,
As a Christmas present to the whole family (read, “myself”) – I purchased a new hdtv – I bought a 37 inch lcd and the quality is phenomenal.

Have you noticed a great deal of difference between the progressive scan capabilities of a standard dvd and the the hd of a hd or blu ray disc?

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avatar Raymond

I dunno…I just have a hard time seeing the point of upgrading just yet. Still owning an old CRT tv probably has a lot to do with it though!

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,365 (Platinum)

NCN: There is a significant difference between watching standard DVDs on my older progressive scan DVD player (which does not “upconvert”) and watching high-def discs on the HD DVD and Blu-Ray Disc players. There is less of a difference between watching a standard DVD on the high-def players (which “upconvert” the signal) and watching HD DVDs or Blu-Ray Discs. I notice all the differences on my 42″ screen, but I know what to look for. Congrats on your new purchase!

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avatar razmaspaz

Well, I hate to tell you, but it appears the war ended earlier this month. Your HD-DVD player lost. Its only a matter of time now.

http://wesleytech.com/ces-hd-dvd-event-canceled-due-to-warner-announcement/483/

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,365 (Platinum)

Raz: That was the point of the article. I am aware of the announcement. *Both* camps lost, because *after* the announcement you linked to, Blu-ray announced that the players currently on the market won’t be able to be handle the new features (interactivity, internet) on future Blu-Ray discs, features already included in HD DVD hardware and movies.

Whether you have HD DVD or Blu-ray at this time — and I have both — you’ve lost. Still, the HD DVD camp is trying hard — they do have the product whose hardware that’s better for most consumers (better current features, better price points, region-free encoding) but without studio support and software (movies), it’s all but lost for them.

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avatar kevin

Flexo, I am pretty sure you will still be able to watch the feature though. I can’t say I am that interested in having internet content on either format. I don’t want or need every device in my house connected to the internet. Just play the movie and entertain me, when the movies done so am I. Plus MS is not going to let HD-DVD die for the very reason you stated. They want it in your computer, they write the code, the war in the living room is lost, the one in your computer will rage on as long as MS wants.

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avatar Mike

Hey, Do you have a link to this announcement that, “Blu-ray announced that the players currently on the market won’t be able to be handle the new features (interactivity, internet) on future Blu-Ray discs, features already included in HD DVD hardware and movies.” ? I haven’t been able to find it.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,365 (Platinum)

Here’s one source from Ars Technica:

At CES, the Blu-ray Disc Association announced that 3.5 million Blu-ray players had been sold to date. Of those, 3 million were PlayStation 3s, the most future-proof Blu-ray player on the market. Still, this means that roughly 15 percent of the early adopters are going to be frozen out of the latest and greatest Blu-ray features with BD-Live. That’s bad news for current owners of stand-alone players…

Current players in the market (except for the PS3) won’t be able to handle the interactivity and internet features on Blu-Ray Profile 2.0 (BD-Live) discs.

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avatar Marlene

I don’t own either right now. So, I could buy a Playstation 3, it plays games and movies. Does the Playstation 3 also play regular DVD movies? Do you need to do anything special to the machine to play movies?

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