Streaming Media Needs A Killer App To Beat Physical Discs

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Streaming Media Needs A Killer App To Beat Physical Discs


Mac-App-Store-App-logo.jpgIf we learned one thing from the unbelievable success of Apple's iPod, it's that, if given a chance mainstream consumers will pick convenience over quality, even if convenience is a little more expensive. MP3 files respectfully sound terrible when compared to Compact Discs but the idea of holding 1,000-plus albums of music in your hand while flying on an airplane across the country, taking the subway across town or just out for a jog is simply too compelling for most people to resist when compared to the task of traveling with a portable disc player and a few dozen shiny CDs.

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Regarding the Compact Disc - respectfully an antiquated (if not dead) audio format at this point - many tech savvy people think streaming content makes the idea of any physical disc, be it a DVD or Blu-ray, as having one foot on a banana peel and the other one in the grave. CinemaNow, Netflix and Blockbuster are all pumping out movies on-demand via the Internet to their subscribers. The streaming selection, specifically on CinemaNow, is fantastic, but the audio and video performance is simply pre-historic - well below even DVD levels. Just because you can have a movie load up on your fancy new HDTV through your Internet-connected Blu-ray player or game console doesn't mean it can compete with Blu-ray in terms of quality. To be blunt, streaming does one thing well, which is deliver content conveniently. The quality leaves enthusiasts, film lovers and people who have ears and eyes that still function, wanting for more.

The idea of selling music and movies on a physical disc is a bit old school but it's needed to provide content in uncompressed HD. When DirecTV tells you their pay-per-view is "the same as you get on Blu-ray," they are lying through their teeth. They, like all content providers, compress the living hell out of their content because there is only so much bandwidth out there, be it over a satellite network, over a cable system, fiber optic or over plain old Internet. Moreover, the issue of "net neutrality" looms with streaming companies using up huge amounts of the available content (OK - you can blame Xhamster.com too if you want) over the Internet when there is a limited amount of capacity. Providers want to charge you for that capacity so you buy content from them - not from Internet or streaming players. You can't blame them for wanting to make a buck but there are some serious issues pending with net neutrality that likely will have to be settled in the courts as the Internet is the lifeline of a new economy.

The killer application needed that will make someone a billionaire is a compression scheme that can losslessly compress very large HD audio and video files (think: 24/192 audio times 7.1 channels paired with 4K video) into packets that can make it through the Internet (or other systems) without slowing down traffic. I don't know how to do such a lossless compression scheme (if I did, I would quit this publishing gig and pre-order my Gulfstream G-650), but I can tell you that it would solve a lot of problems. Studios and labels would love it because they could sell your content directly over the Internet and keep all of the margin without having to incur the costs of making Blu-rays. Rental services like Netflix would be gone overnight. Copy protection issues are pretty well handled with HDMI; however other levels of security could be added to make stealing content damn near impossible.

The idea of a world with no physical discs is a good one but only if the replacement for discs like Blu-ray can deliver HD audio to 7.1 channels and video in 4K resolutions - likely to happen well into the future. It's important to support the best, highest quality format to keep pushing the best, most entertaining audio video experience. Without high-octane fuel, there is no reason for a race car of a home theater or audiophile system. Remember that when you vote with your home video economic ballot. It's not that streaming doesn't have its place, as it clearly does, but until they can get real HD that can match the WOW-factor of Blu-ray, it will remain the best looking, best sounding solution until someone finds a way to stream content in real HD.

Additional Resources
• Read more original content like this in our Feature News Stories section.
• Learn more in our Streaming, Apps, and Downloads News section.
• Explore Blu-ray player reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com's writers.

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