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The DVD is dead

It’s used in devices ranging from laptop computers, home theatres, to in-car entertainment systems, but the DVD was designed before the time of ultimate mobility, and that lack of portability along with it’s fragile nature is simply going to kill it.

As the age of smartphones and tablets continue to advance in capabilities — the iPad will take 12% of the PC market in 2011 — streaming data to these smart devices has become a staple of how they are used. Other formats like SD and USB have never really taken off for delivering content, but their chance is coming, and when it does the DVD will be dead.

The recent Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing of Blockbuster video in September was a great indicator of the DVDs demise. And now, with Netflix ramping up their streaming content services, things are going to start skipping to put it mildly.  Netflix originated with DVD rentals by mail, but inevitably the shift in streaming came as devices and consumers demanded it. They made the video rental store simply a click away, but waiting for a DVD in the mail could take days. Internet users were ready for more, so Netflix turned to streaming by raising their mail subscription rates and lowering the streaming service ones.

At no other time have we had access to such high-speed Internet connections that we could receive the same content (that would once come on a disc) through the Internet in just minutes. Not to mention the hardware in devices gaining the ability to play  high-definition video. The video store of old is gone and a new face has emerged. But can the Internet keep up with a world filled with HD streaming media? Not at this rate.

“Video disc rentals will continue their significant decline,” Keith Nissen, principal analyst for In-Stat said in a statement. “The convenience and utility of the online offerings are simply too compelling.”

Real-time entertainment and streaming appears to be the growing trend for media distribution, we are watching it, analysts have said it, and our devices are doing it. It’s instantly accessible, looks pretty damn good, and we don’t have to worry about returning anything on time; or at all. At a growth rate of 270% over the next five years, and a current peak of 20% U.S. bandwith use by Netflix alone — 43% total peak peak traffic in the U.S. according to Sandvine — real-time entertainment streaming could bring our Internet connections down to their knees. Operators will have to spend millions in order to keep up with such demand. It is easier for companies like Comcast and Rogers to do so, where “the last mile” is usually a 10Mbit connection or better hooked up to a fiber trunk down the block. But wireless devices on Verizon, AT&T, and the likes of many other mobile operators all wanting to stream content to their subscribers at the same time? It’s not going to look pretty.

To address this concern they are ramping up fictional 4G networks to buy themselves time.  It will be like BP’s first attempt at patching the rig, it may work for a short time, but the sheer power of the flow will burst their pipes. Carriers have multiple issues facing them now, technically, RF and Internet bandwidth limits, back-haul limits, not to mention the financial burden of a zero or negative return on their investment to bring networks up to par with the increased demand; their going to have to do much much more to keep up.  We’ve seen bandwidth limitations and locks put on devices by carriers to restrict data usage countless times.  Data plans are costly, mainly to deter exorbitant usage, but these are all quick patches awaiting the inevitable.

The time for change

Movie studios tend to know when things need to change, and before that time has come they’ve already had their hands in a half dozen other models just to be safe. The SD, or flash memory, is one of those delivery models. There’s never been a DVD-ROM included within a tablet or smartphone, and probably never will be. Most netbooks and sub-notebook computers like the MacBook Air have already done away with them too, so it’s obvious to tell the DVD is on the same crash course mission our good old friend the floppy disc took.  Now, with flash memory slots becoming integrated in nearly every device, and Apple’s iPad 2 rumored to have an SD card slot as well, the SD maybe the next format for the masses.

The one problem the SD faces is that it is small and can easily be lost.  If this were to fly it would have to come with an expansion bay or cartridge where a larger “cassette” type of contraption is used to insert the SD into, then into a player.  Sony did it with the mini-disc, they shrunk a disc, threw it in a cartridge and made a new format.  It can be done with SD too.  There’s no need to create a new proprietary format, just create a cartridge for the SD, put some fancy movie labels on it, which can also double as a protective case and call it a day.

A California company called Mo-DV (Mobile Digital Video) is half-way there.  They have developed a patented product to deliver content via flash memory devices. Mo-DV’s solution is for studios to distribute and protect their content before letting it out to the world. DRM is important, but obviously useless when looking at todays DVDs encryption strength. The Mo-DV solution comes in multiple fronts, first, they’ve embedded their own OS on a micro-controller that is custom designed to their SD cards. This micro-controller provides the encryption and playback capabilities needed for a device to play the encoded film. You could easily copy the files from your the SD card to a harddrive and think you’ve become a pirate, but it wouldn’t play without the proprietary microcontroller being present. It works so well because regular SD cards cannot issue low level controller commands, neither can a DVD, the Mo-DV SD can and it won’t need new hardware to do it.

The Mo-DV Multimedia Player allows a studio to dump a feature-length film in the highest quality possible to a Mo-DV flash memory SD card/USB stick. “The SD card will play in every device out there now, and 4 billion potential devices by the year 2014″ Jessica H. Fullmer, Founder and CEO of Mo-DV told Mobile Magazine in a telephone interview.

With a GUI on board for media playback, anyone using a Windows Mobile, Symbian, Palm, Linux (Android and Maemo) device, including Windows and eventually Mac OSX can watch a flic at the highest resolution that their device supports instantly because of the embedded software.

“There is increasing demand for movies on USB Flash Drives and SD cards rather than on DVDs, as these newer formats are more portable, offer a wide variety of options at a reasonable price point, and  they can be used on numerous mobile platforms as well as on PCs.  Furthermore, movies on Flash memory devices are a more suitable option than downloading content over the Internet, as today’s viewers aren’t willing to deal with downloading delays, picture flickers, fade out and lost signals.  As such, we are looking forward to targeting our technology to more SmartPhone operating systems in the months to come.” said Fuller in a press announcement earlier this month.

Internet service providers and wireless carriers won’t flinch with Mo-DV, Blockbuster can re-open their doors and have boxes of SD cards on the shelves instead of DVDs, movie kiosks at grocery stores will increase their capacity to carry thousands of titles, and it could be all thanks to technology made by Mo-DV and a tiny little chip called the SD.  Best of all, we need not worry about scratching a disc again.



About Fabrizio Pilato

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  1. I agree that the DVD is in decline, but until broadband services are improved streaming will be hindered from completely taking over. People don’t want to sit there and wait while the video buffers. And with High Def in more demand, more throughput is going to be needed. Cable and DSL providers are going to have to improve their networks. You also have older people who are still not ready to use the internet for everything. But, physical media is on its way out, I just don’t think it will be immediate.

  2. In our house we don’t use DVD’s anymore , except for the Kids favourite shows, witch are in german, and the are watching them about 10times a week. So we had to order them online from Germany. For that, it would probably be cheaper to pay shipping for SD Cards then DVD.

  3. I have to agree. I don’t think it will be very soon, but the DVD future will be just like the VHS. I see now that you can have you game system download movies for you for 8 dollars a month and the that unlimited access. But I see problem with this. What happen the system shut down? And this is another system where you probably have to use credit or debit card all the time. My point is you don’t have use your card for blockbuster or any place that sell. But I guess the studio are trying to save because of the countless individual that bootleg their movie. Also I probably focusing on the major market that live on their laptop and smart phone

  4. I do think the death of the DVD is forthcoming – but still a few years away. Most consumers do not yet have the systems in place to watch a movie on their TV from their computer.

    However, the market will be the driver here – if the TV manufacturers and others create simple interfaces for this technology – its a done deal.

    I believe streaming is really the first frontier to be crossed before the other technologies.

  5. I do not see what makes this DRM scheme different than any other. Someone will make a work around, maybe making a raw copy of the disc, then decrypting the results. I don’t really know how, but it doesn’t matter, it will happen.

    However it is broken, it will again become trivial for illegitimate users to copy and become an occasional nuisance for actual users. Who hates waiting for the warnings and antipiracy movies to play on their legitimate movies. Or worse who hates when something with DRM simply won’t work because of a failing or incompatibility in the DRM. I have never seen a pirated movie call someone a thief or fail to work on a device capable of working with the format of the content.

    That and pirated content is almost always easier to get on the device you want when you want. Will this special cartridge let me copy it to a [insert device that doesn’t exist yet] when it comes out or will it let my father play it on his [insert 4 yaer old cell phone]. When I buy a phone from some other group will it be able to play movies I bought 2 years ago.

    I hope this company fails, because I hate being a pirate just so I can consume media in a way that works for me. At least netflix and their DRM have to decency to call it a rental.

  6. streaming will be the future, end of story. downloading will then be priced- think of it like the music industry. there is no replacement for the cd, because you can stream music, or purchase it for download. the movie industry will eventually have to do the same. as for bandwidth, we will overcome that issue because the demand is there- and that is what drives change. good thing i didn’t invest in a blue ray player!

    renting will eventually fade out, in favor of streaming. and sd/flash drives are in no way the future. they are just a temporary band aid and the reason they are in service right now is because people use them for light data storage and transfer. our devices are getting smaller, more powerful and with larger storage spaces. pretty soon, they will be integrated into more things. i myaself have a htpc, and run it off my 50″ plasma tv. using all of my digital media/computer content on my hdtv is a dream, and thats the future.

  7. What rental stores.. I live in a town of 25,000 people. There is ONE rental store and that sells stationary as a side business.

    Rental is dead NOT the DVD.

    Is buy DVDs to collect, still old enough to enjoy a visible collection I guess. But the young peeps (teens and twenties sths) download or wait the, gosh darn it, whole 8 weeks for the “latest” film to get released on DVD whence it arrives for downloading or purchase. Get real, NOBODY rents films anymore to make it a viable business model. Streaming is just another way for corporations to control you and your media and by the time enough people have 1mb (megaBYTE) connections it will be too late. SD cards are a dead end as they have no ‘weight’, people want a product they can feel. USB is an option for sharing and mobile storage but I prefer my portable 1TB hard-drive and laptop for travel and entertainment.

  8. while others might think that the drive to the store to pick up a movie is a waste of time, the bottom line is the studios and the ability to fight the pirates taking and coping the movies and taking money away from them! If something like and SD card can increase the profits by even 3% that relates to billions the studios will push for more SD types of distributions before streaming that can be downloaded and copy and then resold without there knowlege! I say more power to the SD devise! Besides i like going to blockbuster and getting the opinons of the staff hearing about some title i would not have given a 2nd thought to by streaming!

  9. Fo real oarian! Waiting for netflix DVDs or driving to blockbuster is why the internet streaming on demand is so enticing. What’s the difference between driving to blockbuster or waiting for netflix for a DVD as opposed to an SD card? The answer is none. Better encryption and fatter pipes (wireless or hardwire) are the future. In ten years all content will be delivered via the internet over wireless transmissions. Todays wireless providers will be tomorrows wireless broadband providers.

  10. Nice article. I was with you a lot more in the first half, and then you seemed to change directions. Yes, compared to the SD card, the DVD is dead, but the fact is that both are going the wayside… whether the Internet companies can keep up or not — they sort of have to in order to justify their existence. Tomorrow’s equivalent of commuting to the video rental store and back to pick up a DVD is NOT commuting to the video rental store to pick up an SD cartridge. All the pressure is on and will continue to be on the Internet providers. While today’s viewers are not exactly willing to deal with are downloading delays, it is a realistic problem that the growing generation is willing to accept far over waiting for devices by mail, or physically going to a store to pick up data.

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