Netflix Charges More For Blu-ray Disc Rentals

Netflix has officially announced that they are adding a $1 per month charge to all users who rent Blu-ray discs from the service.

“Blu-ray movies are more expensive than standard definition movies,” Netflix said in a email sent to customers on Wednesday.

The fee will appear in November and anyone who does not want to be charged the extra dollar can opt out of receiving Blu-ray discs.

I’m not surprised by this at all, Netflix isn’t doing this to screw its customers because it actually does cost them more money to purchase Blu-ray discs. Let’s be honest though, it’s only $1 and it seems like just a few months ago when Netflix decided to lower the price of many of its plans (including mine, which went from about $19.50 per month to about $18.35).

I currently don’t receive Blu-ray discs from Netflix because I don’t have a Blu-ray player but I’m asking for one for Christmas and if Santa decides that I was good this year I’ll be happy to pay the extra $1 per month to get all the high-def discs I can eat (or play in a single month).

Kevin Rose Says iPod Price Drops, New iPod Nano, iTunes 8.0, and Blu-ray in OS X 10.5.6

Kevin Rose says that there will be a skinnier longer iPod Nano that will be more rounded released sometime between now and the end of September. Along with the iPod Nano update the iPod Touch will be getting small cosmetic changes and will be the first device to get the 2.1 software update (iPhone getting it shortly afterward). There should also be price cuts in the iPod line to differentiate them from the iPhone, with these price cuts Apple hopes the iPhone won’t cannibalize so many of the iPod sales.

iTunes 8.0 will also be released soon with many new features and functionality. He also says that OS X 10.5.6 may have integrated Blu-ray support allowing Apple to release Macs with Blu-ray drives.

Now the question is whether or not you should believe these rumors. Kevin’s track record hasn’t been the greatest. We all remember when he said that the iPhone wasn’t going to have two batteries, but Kevin seems very confident in these statements and all of it is very possible (no outrageous claims here, except maybe the changes to the iPod Nano hardware).

I’m not going to be holding my breath for much of this but all of it will surely be very welcomed changes to Apple’s product line.

Kevin Rose

Region Free Blu-Ray Players Now Available

A website is now selling what it claims to be region-free Blu-Ray players. The site wants €499 ($785), for the Panasonic DMP-BD30. The price for this player, unmodded, is around $475 so you’re paying quite the premium for the ability to play Blu-Ray discs from other regions.

If you’re good with a soldering iron you could purchase a mod kit and do it yourself, the kit is a much more reasonable €89 ($140).

I don’t necesarily doubt the fact that these are region free players but what I don’t know is whether or not you will be able to upgrade the players firmware later on or not. If you upgrade the player yourself you will surely void your warranty and although you probably won’t ever use it it’s still possible you may need it.

Blu-ray Players Outsell DVD Players in Japan Last Month

Although many people believe that Blu-ray is too little too late (I don’t agree with them) Blu-ray players actually outsold DVD players in Japan last month.

I’m not sure what this means to us Americans, Japan usually seems to be ahead in these types of situations and it may take us a little longer to purchase new players but once we do I think it will be another 3-5 years before the real consumers start to take a serious look at downloading content.

I know, I know, for me to say that may seem harsh but trust me I talk to the average consumer, living in up-state New York doesn’t have too many perks but not surrounding myself with early adopters like those in San Francisco is one of them. The average consumer doesn’t even consider the idea of downloading a movie off of the internet. They may know that it can be done, possibly from talking to one of their younger family members, but they wouldn’t even think twice about it, when the average consumer wants a movie they have two options, head to Blockbuster or head to Wal-Mart.


$298 Blu-ray Players Showing Up in Wal-Marts

Funai has just began shipping their first generation of Blu-ray disc players that will be branded with various names (Magnavox, Sylvania, Emerson, Insignia, Pye). Some of these players have already began showing up in Wal-Marts for $298, super cheap for a Blu-ray player.

Funai is currently the largest manufacturer of DVD players, accounting for over one half of all DVD players sold in North America. This first step into Blu-ray is going to be big, especially if they are able to lower manufacturing costs and eventually retail prices to $200 or less over the next year or so.

These players are profile 1.1, capable of 480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p (1080p/24 and 1080p 60) output. DVD upconversion to 720p, 1080i, 1080p. They do have support for Hd Audio formats, bitstream output though, no internal decoding. HDMI version 1.3, which is quite nice for all of you who care what version of HDMI you use.

This is the second step to making Blu-ray really take off, the first of which was killing off HD-DVD. Getting players down to prices that start to make the average consumer actually consider them is crucial, especially with the ever increasing pressure from the idea of consumers downloading their content. Forums

SlySoft AnyDVD HD Cracks BD+ Encryption

SlySoft is claiming that version of its AnyDVD HD program has completely cracked the BD+ copy protection allowing users to make backup copies of Blu-ray discs or transcode the movies on those discs into other formats.

SlySoft had promised to publish this release of the software in December but they decided to wait a bit for the outcome of the format war. AnyDVD HD has been able to backup Blu-ray discs for a few months now but hasn’t been able to crack BD+ up until now.

Undoubtedly this crack won’t work for too long however, the makers of the Blu-ray format has made it possible to upgrade BD+ and make cracking programs like AnyDVD HD useless at cracking the encryption.

I hope that content makers realize that no matter what they do to encrypt their movies, it will eventually be hacked so that we can do what we want with the content that we legally purchased.

SlySoft AnyDVD

Future Shop Get In On The HD-DVD Player Trade In Bandwagon

Future Shop has announced that between March 7 and April 3, customers who own HD-DVD players have been invited to return their players to Future Shop and receive $100 off either an LG or Samsung Blu-ray/HD-DVD combo player.

Future Shop will even accept players that haven’t been purchased from Future Shop.

Unfortunately the offer is for a combo player but I guess if you’ve already began building a library of HD-DVD discs it wouldn’t be a terrible thing to have a player that is capable of playing back those discs.

Currently the combo players are going for $499.99 at Future Shop so the $100 credit will bring the price down to $399.99, which is about the same price as a PS3 so it isn’t that bad of a deal since you won’t have to re-buy all of your already purchased HD-DVD discs.

Future Shop

Circuit City Accepting HD-DVD Player Trade Ins

Have you been screwed by another format war? Well Circuit City is here to help, if you purchased your HD-DVD player within three months of Toshiba’s announcement of the end of the format war and you also purchased your player at Circuit City, then you may be in luck. There have been some reports that Circuit City is letting HD-DVD player owners trade in their players for the full purchase price towards a Blu-ray player or a gift card.

This is a great move Circuit City if you have been affected by the format war and your player qualifies head on over to Circuit City and see if you can get them to let you return it.

One thing I want to mention about Circuit City, in the past year I’ve had two brand new consumer electronics stores show up in my area, first  was Best Buy, and when I heard that a Best Buy was coming in I was ridiculously excited but was then incredibly disappointed when I realized that Best Buy was a terrible store. Then Circuit City came in and every problem I had with Best Buy was exactly how I wanted it to be with Circuit City… fixed… Circuit City is a great store and I would go there and purchase products from them, even if they are more expensive than they are at Best Buy, just because the store functions so much better than Best Buy does.

Universal and Paramount Going Blu-Ray… Obviously

The German website HDTV Praxis is saying that both Paramount and Universal are going to be making the obvious choice of switching to Blu-ray.

Universal’s president Craig Komblau said “While Universal values the close partnership we have shared with Toshiba, it is time to turn our focus to releasing new and catalog titles on Blu-ray.” (source)

I would like to take this opportunity to officially announce that I will no longer be manufacturing hardware or software for the HD-DVD format and starting in March I will begin manufacturing Blu-ray discs out of my basement.

This decision of mine was due to market circumstances with Netflix being my primary distribution channel I just can’t see how I can continue to manufacture HD-DVD products.

Everyone else was making announcements about leaving HD-DVD… I didn’t want to feel left out.

HDTV Praxis (Through Google Translate)

Netlix Decides To Go Blu-Ray Exclusive

Netflix announced Monday that it will stock only Blu-ray discs and will soon be dropping the HD-DVD format. Netflix have offered both formats since they hit the streets in early 2006.

“We’re now at the point where the industry can pursue the migration to a single format, bring clarity to the consumer and accelerate the adoption of high-def,” Ted Sarandos, cheif content officer for Netflix said.

Netflix made this decision because of 4 of the 6 major movie studios using Blu-ray exclusively.

Currently the only major movie studios to be sticking with HD-DVD are Paramount and Universal, and we have all heard the rumors of those two jumping ship.

Netflix isn’t going to be taking away the discs that they currently have in stock, Netflix will continue to offer those discs until the natural life cycle of the discs come to an end.

Blu-Ray Outselling HD-DVD in the Hardware Department

Things don’t seem to be looking too good for HD-DVD. The research group NPD released numbers of hardware market share for High definition formats. In the week leading up to CES the hardware market share for both formats were practically tied but the week of CES Blu-ray kicked the crap out of HD-DVD selling 92.53% compared to HD-DVD’s 7.47%.

Toshiba even began to cut prices on their players often times costing half of what the Blu-Ray players cost but it looks like the consumers have spoken and they say that they would rather have a format that actually has movies on it.


Blu-Ray Winning Everyone Over

“It should be consumer choice; and if that’s the way they vote, that’s something we’ll have to consider,” this is what Albert Penello group marketing manager of Xbox hardware said when asked whether Microsoft would support a Blu-ray DVD accessory in the event that HD-DVD failed. –source

This single quote has made the blogsphere set fire yesterday. It seems that Blu-ray may be winning everyone over lately, this doesn’t mean that HD-DVD is dead but things are looking pretty glum for them.

Today we also got news from PaidContent that Universal is going to be ending their HD-DVD exclusivity soon. The reason that Universal has not yet made an official statement about this is that contracts keep them from doing so, Universal is still committed to a series of promotions for HD-DVD in the coming months.

Paramount also may be leaving the HD-DVD camp, from all of the rumors going around it seems that Paramount has a clause in their HD-DVD contract allowing them to switch camps if Warner Bros. goes with Blu-ray (which they already have).

New Line Cinema (a sister company of Warner Bros.) has confirmed that they will follow Warner’s move to go exclusive with Blu-ray. Ron Sanders, Warner Home Video president, said that although Warner Bros. decided to go exclusive with Blu-ray other Time Warner entertainment companies would be making their own decisions. New Line Cinemas decision to stop making HD-DVD titles is effective immediately. –source

With the news of Microsoft’s willingness to come out with a Blu-ray drive for the Xbox 360 alongside these news stories about studios leaving HD-DVD, it looks like HD-DVD isn’t looking too good right now. I can’t really see HD-DVD coming back and winning this war but I’m not going to come out and say that it is dead either. Although the fact that HD-DVD decided to cancel their press conference at CES says to me, and many others, that the HD-DVD camp is also starting to think that they may lose this war.