Friday, February 23, 2007

This & That vs That & This

As a relatively technically inclined member of the largest consumer group in the history of the U.S. known as “Generation Y,” I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve been slow to hop on the flat-screen HDTV bandwagon. I’d like to take a moment and thank capitalism for giving me something genuinely momentous to grumble about here, okay, that’ll do.

I’ve been watching the HDTV market since last November waiting for the right TV to come along at the right price. Just like every other consumer, I went to my local Best Buy to compare the LCD picture quality to that of a comparable Plasma screen only to find that my gut instinct was right all along, LCD is the best choice for me hands down. Rather than dedicating an entire blog to my rationale for LCD’s superiority let me just say that I’m a 22yr old male, a young professional and a gamer (easy on the eyes, enjoys long walks on the beach at night, etc…). It doesn’t take a marketing guru to determine that this translates to 3 things:

Aesthetic Appeal: At 22 yrs young it’s not really an HDTV unless it’s flat right? LCD’s are usually just a bit thinner, which means an ever so slight victory for the LCD here.

Price: As a young professional on a budget my options for an HDTV are limited to flat panels ranging between 32 to 37 inches (crossing fingers for a price-drop in screens between 37’’- 40’’ in the very near future). Most screens smaller than 37’’ are usually LCD, which makes it the clear winner over plasma regarding price as the greater selection means greater price range assumption proves true here.

Functionality: As a gamer, it’s relatively common knowledge that LCD is advantageous due to brightness/contrast and image-burn factors.Although image-burn is becoming less and less of an issue thanks to technologies such as Pixel Orbitor, this problem can still rear its ugly head for any games with a permanent dashboard. It’s worth noting that gaming gap draws smaller and smaller between the two everyday and that the margin for victory here is not a great one, but nonetheless, LCD does take the win here, for now anyways.

Just for a moment, let’s pretend like I made the model consumer-savvy move this past holiday season and purchased the 37’’ Westinghouse LCD HDTV when it went on sale at Best Buy for $899. Hmmm, which cliché to use next, “more money more problems,” or “the things we own end up owning us.” Guess I just used both. Whammy! But in all seriousness, this raises the inevitable question, “which high-definition player should I buy?”

Do I let Blu-ray’s marketing crusade scare me into thinking the DVD platform is dead? Not a chance! But just for a moment, let’s pretend like I’m the average consumer or at least how I feel traditional marketers view us as consumers. This ought to be fun.
Average Consumer:
Hello, I’m complacent and deterred by change. I will be brand loyal and put up with your mindless processes because I just don’t know any better. Just keep giving me what I’m used to at the lowest price possible because I’m too naïve to grasp the concepts of globalization. Venturing into the unfamiliar is a daunting path I’d much rather leave for the younger generation. I have been duped by the “first-mover advantage” and I love it! - end

I hate seeing arguments infused with this perspective for why HD-DVD will win the format war! It’s a textbook example of textbook material not crossing over into the real world. As I mentioned earlier, Generation Y is the most powerful consumer group in U.S. history, so shouldn’t we play a key role in defining what the standard for “the average consumer” is? It’s no secret that we’re quick to adapt and love new technology. A considerable portion of our generation has graduated from college and is beginning to break into the professional workforce.

No, we’re not quite the brains of America’s workforce just yet but we’re definitely the legs it’s running on. America’s second wind during this rat race for positioning in a steadily increasing global economy. Our spending habits will continue to impress even the likes of Oprah during her Christmas Party Episode. The only difference now is that we have more money.

By now you probably think I’ve picked my side and am ready to wave the HD-DVD flag on high. In actuality, I’m torn between the two and I haven’t made any final conclusions about either format just yet. What it comes down to for me is content and price. Content always has been and always will be king. This one really hits home for all you web masters/designers and internet marketers obsessed with SEO and Alexa rankings no?

Learning from their past mistakes with the Betamax vs. VHS format war, this time around Sony has aggressively pursued industry support for the Blu-ray disc. However, HD-DVD was the first to hit the market so there’s no clear winner here yet for which format will control the content.

As of right now, although Sony’s Blu-ray Disc clearly has greater numbers in terms of total industry support there is no clear winner here for me as HD-DVD arguably has more key industry players whose market dominance more than makes up for the number of Sony backers.

Given that both formats support up to 1080p and 7.1 audio. The question I had to ask myself is, “How much storage space is really necessary?” Yes, I asked myself that question aloud.
At 30 gigs, HD-DVD is capable of supporting about 12 hours of HD content. While Sony’s Blu-ray disc has 50 gigs of storage space. I know what you’re thinking, “You mean I could have all the episodes of Arrested Development on one disc!” Yes, theoretically you can, for hundreds if not thousands of dollars more you can purchase the priceless convenience of not having to get up to switch discs. Congratulations.

All joking aside, price really is a deciding factor for which format is going to be feasible given my budget. I’ve read many articles about how HD-DVD is going to be far cheaper because of the ability to use existing manufacturing/duplicating equipment as opposed to Blu-ray, which has yet to develop such an infrastructure.Interestingly enough, according to this average price chart, Blu-ray has been able to compete quite early in the price arena.
Furthermore, it comes as a surprise to me to see Blu-ray do this well this soon given what the Google Trends chart indicate below…
...and according to the amazon sales chart below; Blu-ray has a higher sales ranking!
As the pricing issues for the high-definition content itself is no longer a major downfall for the Blu-ray platform, what it’s going to boil down to is the price for the high-definition players. Although the margin is getting smaller and smaller everyday, I found that the HD-DVD player is usually going to hurt your wallet a little less when compared to their Blu-ray counterparts. The price difference is remarkably in HD-DVD’s favor when you start to take a look at some of the high-end models. But then again, if you’re a gamer like me then you’re faced with a completely different decision. The decision of whether or not to spend the $200 for the xbox 360's HD-DVD attachment or fork out the $600 for a PS3.

At the moment, the PS3 has failed in my eyes. However, I'm a firm believer that its day of redemption will come and that I will more than likely end up buying one eventually, which raises the question, "why not kill two birds with one stone and buy it now for the Blu-ray player’s sake if nothing else?" Boy, I'm sure glad I already have an Xbox 360, if I didn’t I don’t know if I'd ever make up my mind. =)

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