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Monday, September 05, 2005

By any other name, Divx still sux (Blu-Ray news)

No not DivX the AVI video codec, which I like a lot. I mean Divx: that bastardized DVD format that was sold at Circuit City several years ago, just when DVD was getting to be popular.

Good lord those were some of the most shameless TV commercials ever made. I actually felt sorry for that poor guy who was being paid to smile into the camera as he explained how Divx players "play both DVD and Divx titles". The really scary thing is that some studios - like 20th Century Fox - seriously considered releasing their movies in the Divx format. Then reality came crashing down upon them when they discovered that most consumers were not keen on the idea of trusting their credit card numbers to a household appliance.

What the heck was Divx? Pay-per-view DVD, plain and simple. You'd buy a Divx disc, which looked exactly like a DVD disc. You take it home and you could put it in your Divx player. It might play your movie two or three times with no problem. But if you wanted to watch it more than that you had to make sure that your Divx player was plugged into your telephone line, because the Divx player had a modem inside that would dial up somewhere and charge to your credit card every time you played the movie from there on out. The encoding on the disc was such that you couldn't play it without proper decryption from Divx Central, only after you'd forked over the money to watch your disc.

This was an idea so bad it made New Coke taste good. Personally, I did not want to plug my DVD player into a telephone jack. I did not want to give my DVD player access to my credit account. I did not care for complete strangers to have a record of what I choose to watch with my DVD player (if I view John Carpenter's The Thing fifty-seven times then that's my own business). I did not want to pay a "user's fee" every time I employed said DVD player. I did not... well, you get the picture.

Geez Louise, who in the world actually bought into this thing, anyway?!

Long story short, Divx bombed. It got yanked off the market and Circuit City offered a refund of some sort to those that did purchase Divx players. And you'd think that a lesson would be learned after such a fiasco, right? Right?!

From Engadget.com comes this item:

Blu-ray players to "punish" users who hack their gear?
Posted Sep 2, 2005, 11:14 AM ET by Ryan Block

Of course the looming next-gen optical format war about to go down between Blu-ray and HD-DVD might be kind of interesting if it weren’t taking place, well, in your very livingroom. But with talks broken down and devices starting to crop up, it looks like the first blows will soon be felt—but aren’t they supposed to be hitting one another and not the end user? Because this little bit in a Reuters piece this morning left us a little unsettled:

On top of that, consumers should expect punishment for tinkering with their Blu-ray players, as many have done with current DVD players, for instance to remove regional coding. The new, Internet-connected and secure players will report any "hack" and the device can be disabled remotely.

Are they talking about PVP-OPM techniques and rejected HDMI keys, or something else far more sinister? Because apparently "A hacked player is any player that is doing something it’s not supposed to do," which open to a pretty fair amount of interpretation—most of which egregious.

So my Blu-Ray player will connect to the Internet. And this differs from connecting my DVD player to the phone line... how?

If this happens, HD-DVD will become the preferred consumer standard. Practically by default. Blu-Ray will go the way of Divx, New Coke and Betamax (GREAT video quality, horrible business decision to make it only record one hour of footage though). And I can't believe that I might be watching this happen all over again...