The Blu-ray Format Marks Its 10th Anniversary - Commentary

Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray Disc Player - Front/Rear Views with Disc Samples
Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray Disc Player - Front/Rear Views with Disc Samples. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

The Starting Point

In 2006, DVD had already cemented itself as the most successful home entertainment format in history, with most households having at least one player, and many having two or more.

However, things were changing. In late 2005, the HD-DVD format had begun to arrive on store shelves, providing consumers with the ability to view movies in true high-definition resolution (1080i or 1080p at the time depending on the player) for the first time in a disc based format, and moving into 2016, it was the only the high-definition disc format in town.

However, on June 20th 2016, that all changed as the long promised Blu-ray Disc format became available to U.S. consumers courtesy of the Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray Disc player (shown in the photo attached to this article) - Also, later that year, Sony joined in with its first Blu-ray Disc player, the BDP-S1.

Watching the calendar at the time, I went down to a local dealer and plunked down my $999.99 for the Samsung BD-P1000 as soon as it became available, and also grabbed three of the first available Blu-ray Disc movie titles: The Fifth Element, House of Flying Daggers, and Underworld: Evolution. Additional titles available to consumers at the time included Hitch, Twister, XXX, and The Terminator.

I was now a proud owner of both a previously purchased Toshiba HD-XA1 HD-DVD player, and a Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray Disc player (and, yes, I went back later and spent an another $999 on the Sony BDP-S1 as well).

As of 2016, I still have all three players in my possession, although I haven't used them in several years.

All that being said, in 2006, I was in home theater heaven - DVD, HD-DVD, Blu-ray Disc - and one of the first 1080p LCD TVs, who could ask for anything more?

However, despite the significantly improved image quality of HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc over DVD - with those initial high price tags, and the fact that most consumers didn't have HDTVs (remember, this was a few years before the DTV transition),  DVD was still the home entertainment format of choice, as you needed an HDTV to take advantage the capabilities of the Blu-ray Disc format.

Also, to make matters worse, choosing whether to buy an HD-DVD or Blu-ray Disc player just made things even more confusing for most consumers. You couldn't play a Blu-ray Disc on an HD-DVD player or vice versa. An attempt was made to market HD-DVD/Blu-ray Disc combo players, such as the LG BH100 (yes, I bought, and still have, that one too!), but consumers didn't bite in large enough numbers.

Finally, as a result of the deeper financial and infrastructure backing on the Blu-ray Disc side, HD-DVD ended up being on the losing end of what became known as the Blu-ray/HD-DVD format war, as sales decreased and movie studios bailed. As a result, on February 19th 2008, Toshiba (the primary backer of HD-DVD), dropped the HD-DVD format altogether.

Blu-ray Goes Solo

With Toshiba's HD-DVD format out the picture, Blu-ray was now the sole high definition disc format. You could say that although June 20, 2006 is the "official" birthday of Blu-ray Disc in the U.S. - February 19th, 2008 marks the day that consumer electronics industry and consumers crowned it as THE standard for high-definition disc-based entertainment going forward.

Capitalizing on the growing acceptance of Blu-ray, more companies came out with players (and prices started to come down), more movie studios jumped on board, and by 2012, store shelf space was about equally divided between DVD and Blu-ray.

Adapting Blu-ray Disc Players For Changing Needs

Although some analysts have predicted its demise on a repeated basis, after 10 years, Blu-ray is still with us - the reason is not only video (and audio) quality, but adaptation.

It turns out that the Blu-ray Disc player may be the most versatile home entertainment device you can own. Its foremost function is to play Blu-ray Discs, but all players (with the exception of an early Pioneer model) are compatible with DVD, CDs, and, depending on the player, can play a variety of other disc formats (some players are also 3D compatible).

On the audio side, Blu-ray Disc players also provided home theater fans with access to enhanced audio formats, such as Dolby True HD, DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Atmos, and DTS:X. With enhanced audio, Blu-ray also stimulated changes in home theater receivers.

Blu-ray Disc player manufacturers also countered the onslaught of internet streaming popularity by enabling most Blu-ray disc players to provide the ability to stream both video (Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Vudu, and more) and audio (Pandora, Rhapsody, iHeart Radio, and more), as well.

Some players also provide additional features, such as the ability to stream content directly from compatible portable devices, such as smartphones and tablets, and a few players even offer CD-to-USB ripping, which allows users to copy audio CDs onto USB flash drives.

Blu-ray Disc Recording?

However, one important feature that the Blu-ray format is capable of, but has not been implemented for use by U.S. Consumers, is recordability. Although recording on CD and DVD is common, due to restrictions imposed by U.S. movie studios and TV broadcasters, Blu-ray Disc recording is not available for U.S. consumers, even though there are many Blu-ray recorders available for those that live in Europe, Australia, Japan, and other select markets. To explore this issue further, read my article: Where Are The Blu-ray Disc Recorders?

The Next Step - Ultra HD Blu-ray

What is also interesting to note that with the increased acceptance by consumers of 4K Ultra HD TV, a variation on the Blu-ray Disc format has been introduced, Ultra HD Blu-ray.

This format raises notch higher by adapting Blu-ray disc technology to the 4K landscape. However, just as you can't play a Blu-ray Disc on a DVD player, you cannot play an Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc on current Blu-ray Disc players. However, just as Blu-ray adapted, all Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc players can play standard Blu-ray Disc, DVDs, and CDs.

However, the ironic thing about the introduction of Ultra HD Blu-ray is that just as the Samsung BD-P1000 was the first Blu-ray Disc player to be made available to U.S. consumers, in the Blu-ray 10th anniversary year, Samsung's UBD-K8500 is the first Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc player available to consumers.

In terms of content, the first wave of Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc movies include The Martian, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Life of Pi, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Wild, The Maze Runner, Fantastic Four, and more.

Closing Comments

As of 2016, DVD has been with us for 20 years, Blu-ray Disc for 10 years, and Ultra HD Blu-ray is just getting off the ground....The question is, as we mark the 10th anniversary of Blu-ray, how will things shape up during the next 10 years? Will all three formats still be here,  and in active use, or will physical media fall by the wayside as everything migrates to the non-physical digital domain?

Celebrate Blu-ray's 10th Anniversary Year by buying and watching lots of Blu-ray Disc movies!

More On Blu-ray

Blu-ray Format And Player Basics

Before You Buy A Blu-ray Disc Player

Best Blu-ray Disc Players

Blu-ray Disc Players That Give Your Home Theater A Workout

Best 3D Blu-ray Disc Movies

Configuring A Blu-ray Disc Player With Your Home Theater System

Blu-ray Disc Player Audio Settings - Bitstream vs PCM

How To Access Audio From A Blu-ray Disc Player

How to Connect a 3D Blu-ray Disc Player to a non-3D Home Theater Receiver

Original Publish Date: 06/20/2016 - Robert Silva

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