It looks like the march of obsolescence may soon put HD-DVD movies in the box at your next garage sale along with your old BetaMax tapes, 8-tracks, Laserdiscs, and cassettes (you do save your precious vinyl, don't you?). Now that Warner has established itself firmly in the Blu-Ray camp, the last two hold outs - Paramount and NBC Universal - are considering switching sides.
But, hopefully, all of this will be a non-issue soon - with near-instant downloads, 32GB thumb drives, and 1080p network-enabled set-top boxes arriving in 2008, Blu-Ray may soon join its one-time nemesis in the bargain bin heap.
...Do we need discs at all? With Comcast promising high-definition downloads in 4 minutes and prices of flash memory falling like a rock, maybe we will jump right to a world where video simply lives as a file on a hard drive or flash disk. There’s logic to that, of course, at least in an engineering sort of way. Why spend all the money and time to stamp out discs and distribute them through stores, when the information on them can be simply zapped over a network to someone’s television?
Interestingly, this won't necessarily put the local record store out of business. There's still something great about meeting people in person to discuss and physically posses media; the last seven changes in media (LP to MP3/DivX) haven't killed them off yet, but we'll need download centers with virtual media racks on touch screen flat panel monitors in place for this to happen.
Concerns over defective by design content control may prevent that, but with EMI and others releasing DRM-free tracks, DRM-free movies may not be far off. It would certainly cut down on packaging, shipping, and manufacturing costs, saving trees and petroleum in the process. Most importantly, the friendly neighborhood geeks at the record store could keep their jobs, too :)