Originally Posted by djames4242
I've got no love (or even like) for Microsoft, but I believe you have a lot of this wrong when it comes to BD vs HD-DVD. From my understanding, Sony killed HD-DVD by throwing money at everyone who supported the format. I'm also not sure what clear-cut advantage you're talking about - I suppose the theoretical advantage was the 30gb vs 50gb limit of HD-DVD vs BD, but from personal experience (I have both players), HD-DVD had a superior interface. I find HD-DVD to be more responsive and its menu system to be more robust and capable.
I did find it odd that Microsoft's own support for HD-DVD was limited to a (barely-promoted and not-so-readily-available) external drive. If your assertion is correct, that Microsoft's actions were to thwart support for optical media to force a transition to digital distribution, then Apple can thank Microsoft. Despite their efforts with the Zune and Xbox Marketplace, Microsoft is a tiny player in the digital distribution game. I'd bet that even Vudu has them well beat. Personally, I'm a big fan and have more content on my hard drives and in the cloud than I have on BD and HD-DVD (after BD won the format war, I was kinda done and have only purchased a handful of titles in physical form).
Sony was actually not the sole beneficiary of Blu-ray, they were simply the most prominent proponent. In actuality, the patent pool for the format shows a lot of players involved, some of whom stood to benefit financially more than Sony if the format succeeded.
The clear-cut advantage that I referred to was the industry support, and studio support in particular. Toshiba pretty much stood alone in its support of HD-DVD, which in reality represented their last chance at a financial windfall from their DVD patents (Toshiba and Warner had the biggest financial stake in the DVD format), since HD-DVD was more of an extension of the DVD format than anything.
The structural advantage of Blu-ray was in place before the first players even hit store shelves. Among the major studios, Sony, Fox, and Disney were Blu-ray exclusive, and only Universal was HD-DVD exclusive. Everybody else (Warner and Paramount/Dreamworks) was neutral and released titles in both formats. This ensured that Blu-ray would have a larger selection of the most in-demand titles. And everyone knew that once Sony released the PS3, Blu-ray would also gain an insurmountable advantage in the installed base as well. Toshiba saw this, and as the launch date neared, they came close to an agreement with the Blu-ray coalition on a unified HD optical format. Microsoft stepped in at the 11th hour and basically sabotaged the entire process by throwing their weight behind HD-DVD, thus ensuring a format war.
Aside from slowing down adoption for optical HD video discs, MS also wanted to worm its VC-1 (Silverlight) format into the industry standards for digital video, and slow down the market momentum behind the MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 standard. On that front, MS actually succeeded (at least at first), because HD-DVD would standardize around VC-1, due to its more aggressive compression (necessitated by HD-DVD's smaller disc capacity). This forced the neutral studios to push for VC-1 to become a mandatory supported format in Blu-ray, since that would allow them to do one encoding run for both Blu-ray and HD-DVD disc releases.
As indicated, I don't think MS actually wanted HD-DVD to succeed, so much as they wanted to mire Blu-ray down in a format war. That's why they never integrated HD-DVD drives into the Xbox 360. It was only when Blu-ray looked on the verge of winning that format war quickly that MS stepped in yet again and basically bribed Paramount into dropping Blu-ray and going HD-DVD exclusive. At that time, sales on identical titles showed Blu-ray with more than a 3-to-1 advantage, so Paramount's decision was obviously not market-driven.
Rumor has it that MS also offered a large sum for Warner to drop its support of Blu-ray and go HD-DVD exclusive. But, Warner looked at what was happening in the market, and decided that the only way for the HD optical disc to succeed was for the industry to unify behind one format. Warner looked at Sony and Disney's intractable support for Blu-ray, and decided to go Blu-ray exclusive. This was a huge blow to Toshiba, because they'd been joined at the hip with Warner since the beginning of the DVD format, and Warner had the largest share of HD-DVD sales by a wide margin. Only after losing their long-time partner did Toshiba finally give up on HD-DVD.
You're right in that MS' efforts largely went for naught, since Apple became the dominant player in movie downloads and Netflix is battling a slate of competitors, not including Microsoft, for streaming video. But, also Blu-ray winning the format war when it did also ensured that the format would have some success. It's not the runaway hit that the DVD became, but it has steadily maintained double-digit growth as DVD sales declined. Blu-ray remains my preferred viewing, simply because 1080p downloads and "HD" streaming cannot come close to matching its picture and sound quality. I realize though that the networked options are probably good enough for the mass market (after all, DVDs still hold the majority of optical disc sales).
But, the streaming market is probably going to fragment into a bunch of entrenched camps, with the movie and TV titles divided between Netflix, Amazon, Google, and whoever else wants to enter the fray. The problem is that no single service can afford to pay the rising content fees with all of the major studios, and streaming is quickly headed towards the situation we see now with different premium cable channels each having exclusive access to different sets of titles. That's why Netflix has been dropping titles from its library, and why a title available today won't necessarily be there after the current contracts expire. At least with a physical disc, you know it's always going to be available.
Edited by Woochifer - 8/22/13 at 2:59pm