How Come Apple and Microsoft Xbox 360 Do Not Support Blu-ray?
Blu-ray discs have seen remarkable growth over the past few years. The format famously defeated HD-DVD in February of 2008. Since then, it has become the format of choice for high-def home entertainment and computer data storage.
According to statistics published by Swicker and Associates, 1.2 million Blu-ray discs were sold in the US and Canada in 2006. In 2007, that number had grown to 19.2 million discs per year. By 2009, Blu-ray sales were topping 177.2 million units and growing! That is fantastic growth by any measurement, and yet, Blu-ray is still not as big as it could be.
The fact is, there are two elephants in the room who have not yet embraced the format: Apple and Microsoft Gaming. All of Apple’s desktop and laptop computers are devoid of Blu-ray compatible drives. Microsoft’s Xbox360 game console does not currently support playback of high-def optical discs. The external HD-DVD drive accessory was discontinued in 2008.
Why would two of the biggest manufacturers in the consumer electronics industry still not support Blu-ray three years after it defeated HD-DVD and became the dominant format? To find the answer, we need to look at the history of Blu-ray itself.
The Blu-ray disc format can be traced back to the year 2000, when Sony, Philips, Pioneer, and six other manufacturers banded together to begin developing a new type of Ultra Density Optical disc. They came up with a prototype called DVR Blue disc which was displayed at the CEATEC trade show that same year.
This technology spun off to become Blu-ray, whose name was officially announced in February of 2002. By 2006, the first commercial Blu-ray players and recorders began hitting the market. From there, it did not take long for Blu-ray duplicators and other hardware to go on sale.
While all of this was going on, Toshiba and NEC were developing their own rival format which they called Advanced Optical Disc. Later renamed HD-DVD, the format was developed as a rebuttal against the higher-priced laser diodes used in Blu-ray disc drives. HD DVD even beat Blu-ray discs to the market by a couple of months, and for the next two years the two discs went head to head in a fierce competition for market share.
The format war between Blu-ray and HD-DVD was reminiscent of the VHS or Beta power struggle of the 1980s. Initially, consumers were hesitant to latch on to either format for fear of picking the one that would become obsolete. Finally in 2008, Toshiba and other backers of the HD-DVD format announced they would be ceasing development of the discs and related hardware.
With Blu-ray being the only major high-definition optical disc format available today, the market for Blu-ray cases, discs, recorders, and printable Blu-ray media has exploded. And yet, why haven’t Apple and Microsoft gotten on board with Blu-ray? The first reason is cost. Blu-ray technology belongs to Sony and to the Blu-ray Disc Association. Manufacturers who wish to develop their own Blu-ray hardware must pay licensing fees and royalties to the Association.
The second reason is all about saving face. Microsoft (along with Intel, Toshiba, and other companies) originally sided with HD-DVD for use with their Xbox 360 game console. They produced and sold an add-on accessory drive for a movie format that was discontinued after just three years. For Microsoft to develop an add-on Blu-ray drive today would not only be costly, but it would mean admitting that the company made a mistake in choosing HD-DVD.
The sales figures mentioned above prove that Blu-ray is on the rise. However, I cannot help but wonder how much bigger Blu-ray would be today with the support of tech industry giants like Apple and Microsoft Gaming. As time goes on, I wonder if the pressure for these two companies to give in will increase further, or if they will remain stubborn over issues from the past.