This is not designed to bait more partisan responses so if you have any “go Blu” or “BD is just to sell lame game consoles” replies, please consider them all duly noted (about 5 million times already) on other posts…
Anyway, I spent some time at all the relevant booths at CES – both formats associations, Toshiba, Sony, etc. Here are my main observations.
1) There was no denying that, while NO ONE was officially saying anything, the energy was all with BD. The Sony booth was plain out mobbed both days I went (yesterday and today) and the Toshiba booth was doing just ok. Same for BD versus the HD-DVD booths. When I went to the HD DVD player section of the Toshiba both in Monday afternoon (traditionally one of the busiest times), I was the only one, which was great because I got to ask a lot of one-on-one questions. At Sony I had to wade into the crowd and asking questions felt like being in the White House press room.
2) (And I say this as a PS3 owner and therefore effectively a BD supporter)… I gotta say, it may be too bad the “war” isn’t lasting a little longer because I think it would have been better if there had been more need to push product innovation on Sony and the BD group longer. When you get passed the BD has won vibe at the show, my as objective-as-possible view of the actual product was that HD DVD was way ahead of the BD DVD in terms of all the extra features and functionality.
To the latter point, it was so sad really. I went from the Sony booth where they were tooting BD Live and the still unscheduled 2.0 profile (in some cases with the Godzilla director there to show it off himself). And when you get to the their actual demo of BD live what was the big, great feature (really the ONLY feature they had to show)? A downloadable Godzilla ring tone for your cell phone! Are you kidding? Apparently not. It was really depressing. And I pushed the reps on the details but they had very little else they could offer. I was hoping for “this is just the tip of the iceberg and here are some of the other great things it will do” but all they could show was “and here is where you could register the disc online or join an email list, etc. Really, really lame… And the interface still looked terrible. And it totally removed you from the movie – all the content was its own screens that froze the movie and dropped the sound. I asked if they would have BD Live features that were able to play WITH the movie and were integrated to its time code and they said nothing currently was in the works, “but anything is possible.” They didn’t seem to “get it” at all. (Oh, they also showed how they would be able to update the trailers you see with a film over time, as if this was a great feature for consumers! I couldn’t help but point out that they can’t manage to get more than a token set of trailers on the PS Networks so I’m not holding my breadth on this…)
Then I walked over to the Toshiba booth where they were showing off discs and players already available that made the still unfinished, unscheduled BD Live stuff look like amateur hour. They had live Internet connection features (don’t know if they have a brand name for this) that wrapped around the live movie playing and while still gimmicky were way better than a ring tone. You could see GPS data of where in the world the scene was based at, you could get trivia scrolls, PIP discussion windows, real-time online shopping for products related to the film and current scenes, etc.
What concerned me is Sony didn’t seem at all concerned that their competition already had features they can’t even yet articulate as on their short-term radar. I would have felt better if they really demonstrated they knew what the other camp had and were promising to get there or better soon…
Again, I own a Blu-ray player and not an HD-DVD one. I am happy Blu-ray will continue and overall I am in the camp that believes the “format war” needed/needs resolution for eventual broader consumer adoption and I also don’t buy that prices will go up (and in fact will continue to go down) without this format competition. But it does appear that the BD camp (or at least its leader Sony) is pretty far behind in the feature camp and I hope this doesn’t shut down the feature innovation development pace. I could see that happening also because without a “keeping up with the Jones’” incentive, all things being equal it is more cost effective for Studios to release products with as few extra features as possible.