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Page last updated at 16:38 GMT, Friday, 7 May 2010 17:38 UK

Disc or download? You decide

Blu-ray is turning to 3D to release films such as Avatar, Toy Story and Ice Age

As net users become more familiar with downloading, sales of DVDs are starting to slip.

They dropped by 13% from 2008 to 2009 while digital alternatives, such as video streaming and on-demand movie sites, grew significantly.

In a bid to arrest the decline a US consortium of entertainment firms, the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), has been set up. It wants to transform how consumers buy, access and play digital content.

DECE is working on an ecosystem that will allow users who buy digital content to view it on any of their devices such as mobile phones and portable players.

Downloads will have a common file format wrapped in DRM (Digital Rights Management or copy protection) that will be stored remotely.

Also, consumers buying Blu-ray discs will be able to stream the same movie in different locations and even abroad.

Mitch Singer, DECE president, said: "We want the consumer, no matter where they are to access their library without having to carry physical media around with them."

"If I'm travelling and I'm in a hotel that is a DECE member, I'll be able to access my entire library through the hotel's pay-per-view interface and stream movies right to my room," he said.

Streaming service

Others are betting on the cloud as a universal way to deliver content to users.

Computer user
DECE will allow users who buy digital media to view it on various devices

Sonic Solutions has launched technology it calls RoxioNow to simplify media access. Lots of different devices will be able to plug into the cloud-based service.

"We are suggesting you should be able to log into your account with your name and password on any consumer electronics device - TV, Blu-ray player, PC, phone, netbook - and your movies are always there," said David Habiger, boss of Sonic Solutions.

Movie fans will also have the option to buy or rent new films wherever they login. This could pose a challenge because every movie has to be encoded for different screens and sizes.

The firm is predicting a 10 fold increase from three to 30 million devices being reached by its streaming service within a year.


The backing of Hollywood's major studios has been key to the growth of the streaming services.

While physical media was losing popularity, Blu-ray and HD-DVD were locked in a format war, which confused consumers.

Sony's Blu-ray came out victorious but enthusiasm for the discs and players remained lukewarm, and sales only started picking up when manufacturers slashed prices in 2009.

"Today we're seeing players drop below the $100 (£68) price point on some special sales and so that's opening up more sales to the consumers for players," said James De Puydt from removable data firm Imation.

As an extra incentive, manufacturers of Blu-ray players have built-in services including the ability to stream movies from sites such as Netflix and Amazon.

Some people may not switch to Blu-ray while the format is still expanding

Executives view these services as purely complementary because a HD disc still delivers better picture quality than a video stream.

"The best possible experience you can get for watching the best of your TV comes from a Blu-ray player," said Eisuke Tsuyuzaki, Panasonic's chief technical officer.

"There's no waiting and you have interactivity. You don't have all those things in a streaming player. You can have buffering issues, you have bandwidth issues," he added.

Evolving Blu-ray

Makers of Blu-ray burning software said its recordable format is a small market compared to DVD Recordable.

In addition, Blu-ray manufacturers are still updating their software and hardware for new features such as the BD-Live player and higher capacity discs.

Now Blu-ray is also expanding into the 3D market.

"The Blu-ray Disc Association have been working on a new standard called Blu-ray 3D," said Andrew Fear from Nvidia.

"To create the ability to take all those movies in theatres like Avatar, Toy Story, Ice Age and making a format that is 3D compatible for the home".

But some people may not feel ready to embrace a technology perceived as still evolving and which could require costly upgrades.

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