Blu-ray: Early adopters knew what they were getting into

Blu-ray may have taken a commanding lead in the next-generation format war, but the group has a big problem looming: early supporters of the format will be left out in the cold when the Blu-ray Disc Association introduces BD Profile 2.0

Unlike HD DVD, which mandated features such as local storage, a second video and audio decoder for picture-in-picture, and a network connection from the very beginning, the companies behind Blu-ray took a different approach. Initial hardware players lacked these capabilities in order to keep costs down.

None of the Profile 1.0 players can be upgraded to Profile 1.1, which was finalized recently, with the exception of the PlayStation 3 -- whose update arrived in mid-December. Likewise, Profile 2.0 is expected to arrive in October bringing Internet connectivity that Profile 1.1 players lack.

Representatives at the Blu-ray booth at CES told BetaNews that the PlayStation 3 is currently the only player they would recommend, due to upcoming changes to the platform. But Pioneer, Samsung, Panasonic and Sony have all been selling standalone Blu-ray players to customers.

In order to allay confusion, the BDA has adopted special labels that will be placed on Blu-ray movies. Those with a "Bonus View" sticker will require Profile 1.1 players, while those with "BD Live" will require Profile 2.0.

In addition, the BD-J interactivity layer, based on Java, has continued to evolve since the introduction of Blu-ray Profile 1.0. This means that early players may have a buggy implementation and perhaps more importantly, they are not powerful enough to play the latest films properly.

When BetaNews asked developers of BD Live whether they were concerned about a backlash from early adopters who supported the format from the beginning, we were told: "They knew what they were getting into."

BDA President Andy Parsons echoed that sentiment at the Blu-ray press conference Monday, telling BetaNews that it's normal for new technology to change and older hardware to become obsolete. He added that early Blu-ray owners can continue to do everything they could in the beginning: watch movies in high-definition.

Still, the confusion will only likely further alienate existing and potential customers of the nascent format. One key Blu-ray developer told BetaNews that although he builds discs for studios including Fox and Lionsgate, he did not buy a Blu-ray player for personal use.

When BetaNews asked why these manufacturers rushed out players that were not fully capable and potentially buggy due to their BD-J implementation, the Blu-ray partner pointed blame across the room to HD DVD. "We should have waited another year to introduce Blu-ray to the public, but the format war changed the situation," he said. HD DVD was already coming and the BDA had no choice but to launch Blu-ray.

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