Microsoft: Digital Download & Streaming Makes Blu-Ray Obsolete

Jonathan Sutton

Microsoft, who for some time now has stood on the opposite side of the Blu-ray camp, once again reaffirmed its non-friendly stance by declaring that Blu-ray will be displaced by digital download and streaming as a HD format.

When HD DVD went head-to-head against Blu-ray in the high-definition optical disc format war a few years ago, Microsoft sided with the former by offering an external HD DVD Drive as a hardware accessory to its popular Xbox 360 console. As things turned out, more movie studios and retailers went with Blu-ray, leaving HD DVD’s chief proponent Toshiba no choice but to abandon the format… and Microsoft with eggs on its face.

Despite calls from Xbox 360 users for Microsoft to introduce a Blu-ray add-on drive, the company has remained reluctant to commit to the HD format. And the statements made by Microsoft UK’s director of Xbox entertainment and marketing Stephen McGill in an interview with online gaming magazine Xbox 360 Achievements may have delivered the final nail in the coffin.

When asked if Microsoft’s insistence with the space-limited DVD format is going to cut short the lifespan of the Xbox 360 console, Mr McGill responded that people have jumped from DVDs to digital download and streaming (capable of hitting full HD 1080p quality akin to Blu-ray through its Zune platform) which effectively renders Blu-ray obsolete, vindicating the company’s decision to distance itself from the format.

His claim may have some truth in it, given the rising availability of internet-connected TVs and the increasing number of digital download sales. But surveys have indicated that most gamers prefer to buy a tangible product in the form of physical discs, which can at least command some second-hand resale value should they choose to sell them later on. And when the state of UK’s internet broadband – with capped bandwidth being the norm – is taken into account, it is unlikely that Blu-ray will go extinct anytime soon.