Betting on the Wrong Horse
2006 November 7 by John
It had been rumored, and now it's for real: Joystsiq is reporting that, come November 22nd, users of Microsoft's Xbox Live online service will be able to purchase TV shows and rent movies — in high definition — right through their consoles.
No optical media required.
Sony has been betting on high-definition Blu-ray movie discs to make its upcoming Playstation 3 compelling for customers. After all, it worked for them with the original Playstation — when DVD players were still in their infancy, many gamers picked up a Playstation to act as both game machine and video playback device.
Unfortunately for Sony, something happened between then and now. Digital distribution — no physical media required — swept the music industry in the form of the iPod and iTunes store. Sony seemed to be caught completely by surprise, and struggled to catch up — making a number of questionable decisions along the way, like the ATRAC audio format and the Sony Bean. Sony is still very, very far from seriously challenging the iPod's dominance in a market they once owned.
But music wasn't the only industry affected. Slowly but surely, movies have begun feeling the gravitational pull of digital distribution. Customers can now buy full-length movies over iTunes to play back on their iPods, computers or (particularly with the upcoming Apple set-top device) on their televisions.
Sony has simply bet on the wrong horse. It's a costly bet, too — the Blu-ray technology seems to be the primary culprit behind the PS3's exorbitant price and constant manufacturing woes. Pace Phil Harrison, higher-capacity physical media isn't future-proof — it's future-stupid. Microsoft is about to beat Sony to the punch with the real version of an HD video future. Where Sony will go from here, having just been robbed of its major "next-generation" selling point, I can't begin to fathom. But suddenly things just got a lot more intriguing for movie fans.
Oh, and can someone talk Kutaragi down off that ledge?