The case of the vanishing video disc technology
If you go to an electronics retailer these days and try to find a movie on a video tape, you will likely be disappointed. They just aren't on the shelves anymore. They've been replaced by DVDs or the latest format, blu-ray.
In fact, you would probably be hard-pressed to find a VCR to play your old video tape collection, assuming you still have tapes.
That's the path of modern electronics — rapid obsolescence.
And now it seems to be happening to video discs.
You're probably thinking this is an April Fool's joke, as you sit there staring at all the DVDs you have bought over the years to replace the video tapes you once had.
Well, it isn't a joke. Technology is changing again.
A recent movie industry study predicted that this will be the year that consumers for the first time watch more movies they have “streamed” (downloaded) via the Internet that they do via a physical video disc.
In fact, IHS Screen Digest predicted that online consumption of movies will represent 57 percent of movie watching at home in 2012.
Personally, I fnd this rather surprising. I have followed the online streaming trend for a year or two now. At first it was primarily adopted by “techies” and had a slow start. I wasn't much impressed by it then, but now it seems to have hit that “break away” point that big technology innovations reach. After that, change is rapid.
A few things seem to have brought us to this point.
First is improvements in streaming technology and wider availability of high speed Internet to accommodate it.
Second is a push by popular movie providers like Netflix and Amazon toward streaming of movies in addition to renting or selling video discs.
Third, is the widespread emergence of online streaming capabilities in video disc players, TVs and other devices. Streaming technology is popping up everywhere. Pretty soon it will probably be in a toaster.
The next step in the streaming trend is the “cloud” for movies.
Computing has been moving to online work and storage for some time now. This newspaper is primary produced in the “cloud” using computer programs on servers in a faraway city. Information flows back and forth over high-speed Internet connections.
The eventual goal of some movie providers is for consumers to buy movies that are stored in the “cloud” rather than having a physical video disc. If you want to watch something in your collection of movies, you go online and stream it to your TV. The movies are always sitting there waiting for you to pick one to watch.
Right now the movie industry is trying to encourage consumers to buy the video disc (on which they make more money) with which they also provide a version stored permanently in the “cloud.” Five major movie producers are doing this under the title of UltraViolet.
Giant retailer Wal-Mart will sign on to the UltraViolet “cloud” concept beginning this month by providing a service where DVD owners can pay to convert their old DVDs to “cloud” versions.
I'm not convinced a “cloud” movie collection will be popular. People tend to like a physical collection they can pick up and examine. But then I wasn't convinced “streaming” would become popular either. Now I stream and apparently a lot of other people do, too.
Terry Ross is director of the Yuma Sun's News and Information Center. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Telephone: 539-6870. Facebook: facebook.com/YSTerryRoss. Twitter: twitter.com/@YSTerryRoss.