Tag Archives | DVD

No Blu-ray or DVD Playback for Wii U

Last week, I wrote a list of unanswered questions about Nintendo’s Wii U, the upcoming home game console revealed at E3. But I neglected to ask one biggie: Will the Wii U be a game console or a multimedia device?

The answer is still unknown, but if you’ve got a big collection of DVDs or Blu-ray discs, you won’t be enjoying them on the Wii U. Speaking to investors, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata confirmed that the new console won’t support movie playback in either format, Kotaku reports. The Wii U will only accept discs in a 25 GB proprietary format.

Nintendo figures that enough people already have DVD or Blu-ray players, so including the capability — and licensing the associated patents — wasn’t worth the extra cost.

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Zediva’s Fast Failure

On Wednesday, Jared wrote about Zediva, a new movie-streaming service that offers new releases for cheap–by streaming them onto the Internet from banks of DVD players, without the permission or cooperation of the companies that own the content. He was worried it could turn out to be “another workaround that doesn’t quite work.”

Bingo! Or at least that’s the way it looks at the moment. The site went down, due to technical glitches that the company’s Twitter feed appears to blame at least in part on a mention on the Yahoo home page. (Being reviewed–pretty favorably–by David Pogue in his New York Times column probably didn’t help, either.) Then it came back up, but with a note explaining that the best prospective new members could do was to join a waitlist.

Now, some of my favorite Web sites and services have been crushed by unexpected demand upon launch. It’s practically a rite of passage. (Many come back up swiftly, and work just fine from then on–which always leaves me wondering, why couldn’t their proprietors provide sufficient infrastructure in the first place?) So it’s possible that Zediva will bounce back.

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Sony Getting the Antitrust Eye Over Optical Drives

sonylogoIt’s not quite clear why it is happening, but Sony disclosed Monday that its Optiarc division in the US is under investigation by the Justice Department for possible antitrust violations. Sony Optiarc is one of the larger manufacturers of optical drives, including DVD and Blu-ray.

The DOJ is not the only government agency worldwide looking into Sony’s practices: other countries are apparently also requesting information as part of a wider investigation into the industry. It is unknown whether any other companies may have received requests for information.

An educated guess would lead to the investigation centering around price-fixing. While it’s not known, Blu-ray prices have remained high even though the technology has now been commercially available for over three years, and its competitor HD DVD has been gone for nearly two-thirds of that time.

Then again, it could have nothing to do with Blu-ray. Fact is we just don’t know much at this point. More on this as we get it…

(Hat tip: IDG)


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DVD: The Short Goodbye?

Rocky IIIOver at Yahoo Tech, my friend Chris Null blogged about an interview the Motley Fool did with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings in which the DVD-by-mail tycoon says he thinks DVD has two years left as the primary delivery format for movies. That’s a little like hearing the president of McDonalds opining that burgers are on the way out. But it also sounds like as sensible a prediction as any.

As Chris says, Hastings didn’t make clear what he thinks will replace DVD, but the likely scenario presumably involves the format suffering at the hands of both digital downloads and Blu-Ray short-term, and virtually all distribution being digital over the long haul. (At least I’m assuming that we’ll all look back at Blu-Ray as a stopgap.) There’s still lots of work to do–relatively few of us have any way to watch content from the Internet on our TVs, for instance–but an awful lot can happen  in very little time.

I suspect that I’ll still pull out DVDs from time to time for years to come–for one thing, I have hundreds of them and no interest in repurchasing or recreating all of them in purely digital form. (Hey, I even watch VHS from time to time.) But I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if I buy my last new DVD in 2011. And I look forward to seeing how Netflix works to reinvent itself as the neat idea the company was founded on becomes obsolete. (Its Watch Instantly feature is a fun start.)

Your forecast, please:


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Kaleidescape Loses in DVD-Copying Battle, Too

KaleidescapeFor years, the high-end consumer-electronics device known as Kaleidescape has provided good reason to  wish you were filthy rich. Starting at around $8,000 but mostly going way, way up from there, the systems let you store DVDs to hard disks and browse and watch them from multiple TVs around your house. But the DVD-copying aspect–which can be approximated with free software and a cheap network drive–was only part of the product’s appeal. What really made it interesting was the software, which sported one of the slickest, most thoughtful user interfaces this side of Cupertino. It’s like what Apple TV might be on an unlimited budget, if it let you enjoy the DVD movies you’d already bought rather than making you pay to download them again.

Now Kaleidescape has suffered a court defeat to Hollywood, just a day after RealDVD (which is a sort of poor man’s Kaleidescape in software form) did. Two years ago, Kaleidescape won a rare victory relating to DVD-copying in the digital age, but a California state appellate judge has overturned that decision. As I understand it, the Kaleidescape case doesn’t involve questions of fair use but whether Kaleidescape abused the license it obtained from the DVD Copy Control Association for CSS, the encryption standard used to lock up DVDs. But I’d still rather see products like RealDVD and Kaleidescape win in court than lose. The ruling won’t force Kaleidescape to pull products off the market immediately, and could be overturned.

Greg Sandoval’s piece on Kaleidescape and RealDVD at Cnet has one shred of sort-of-good news: Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, who ruled in the RealDVD case, said that she wasn’t saying that consumers definitely don’t have the right to back up their DVDs under certain circumstances. But here’s a bit of big-picture optimism: The Betamax case which established fair-use ground rules for copied movies in the first place got all the way to the Supreme Court before Sony (and, indirectly, consumers) scored definitive victory over the studios. Let’s hope that both Kaleidescape and Real have plenty of fight left in them.


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VHS is Dead. Next: DVD. Then Blu-Ray.

supermanii1Maybe I’m just not very observant, but I never notice old media formats going away until they’re…gone. One moment, the record stores down at my local malls still stocked vinyl. And then they didn’t. Audio cassettes? Same thing. And now the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Distribution Video Audio, the last major distributor of VHS tapes, is calling it quits on videotape. Everybody seems to be taking this is the closest thing we’ll get to an official death warrant for VHS, which seems perfectly reasonable.

I never noticed Blockbuster or Hollywood Video shrinking their tape sections into nothingness to make room for DVD. But even in my home, VHS ain’t what it used to be. I moved in July; so far, I haven’t bothered to set up my VCR at my new house, though it’s in working condition and ready for duty should I need it. Which I probably will, since I have several hundred VHS tapes–including some good stuff that has never been released on DVD. (I keep telling myself I need to dub them all to DVD before they rot away, and I will…but almost everything is still in surprisingly good shape, or was the last time I checked.)

It doesn’t seem like it’s been all that long since I bought my VCR and had to choose between VHS and Beta, and congratulated myself on my wisdom in investing in VHS instead of the increasingly dicey Beta format. But that was…1985, I think.

The end of VHS is a little different than past media-format deaths in that it’s pretty obvious that media is on its way out. DVD is wonderful in many ways, but Hollywood is already trying to get us to buy everything we already bought on VHS and DVD all over again in Blu-Ray. (I’ve resisted the siren call so far.) And given how fast things are moving with delivery of video programming over the Internet, Blu-Ray itself feels like a stopgap. Ten years from now, a Blu-Ray disc will look almost as archaic as a vinyl LP does now–and I’m not so sure that it won’t be more like four or five years. Maybe even less.

In many ways I’ll miss the comforting notion that content I’ve bought resides on platters or cassettes that I have control over…although copy protection has already removed much of that benefit. But I won’t miss it too much. Especially since I have the sneaking suspicion that I’ll have some tapes and discs around the house for as long as it’s possible to find devices that will play them.


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RealDVD Fails to Leave Limbo

This just in: Judge Marilyn Patel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has ruled to extend the restraining order that prevents Real from selling its new DVD-copying software until another hearing can be scheduled. Bummer. More details when we have them…


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RealDVD Now Available; Ten Free Copies for Technologizer Community Members

[UPDATE: RealDVD is already the subject of legal wrangling–Real announced today that it’s suing the Hollywood studios to protect the product against charges that it’s illegal. Press release here.]

RealNetworks is announcing that its RealDVD software is available for download and purchase today. It is, for the moment at least, unique: It’s the first software for DVD copying that goes about it in a way designed to sidestep problems with U.S. copyright law, and it’s also the easiest application I’ve seen for PC-based DVD copying and playback.

I review the application here, and do so reasonably favorably–it’s fast and simple, and you wind up with a library of saved DVDs that’s a snap to browse through. (Limitations: You can’t move copies to portable devices, and options for sharing them among PCs are limited to external drives.) Folks who are already hardcore users of DVD rippers such as Handbrake probably won’t be drawn to RealDVD, but I think it stands a good chance of becoming popular with the larger group of PC users who have never dealt with the complexities–both technical and legal–of using existing DVD copiers.

You can download a thirty-day trial version of RealDVD before you plunk down your $29.99. But how’d you like to get it for free, period? Real has supplied Technologizer with ten license codes, and we’ll give ’em away to members of the community. Here’s how to get a chance at snagging one:

1) Make sure you’re a registered member of the Technologizer Community. If you already are, great; if not, it just takes a moment to sign up, which you can do here.

2) Make sure you’re signed into the community, then visit my profile page.

3) Use the “Send a message” link on the left-hand side of the page (under my smiling face) to send me a message saying you’d like a chance at a license code. “Please enter me for a RealDVD code” is all I need to know.

That’s it. Ping me by 12pm noon PT on Thursday, October 2nd–later that day, we’ll choose ten winners at random, and alert them by e-mail with the codes by midnight on Friday. And we’ll report back in a post on who won the free copies, just so the world knows we did indeed give them away.

Good luck! And if you try RealDVD, let us know what you think of it.


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A Real Review of RealDVD

[NOTE: A court has ordered Real to stop distributing RealDVD for the time being–details here.]

In one sense, there’s nothing the least bit new about software that can copy DVDs to a PC’s hard drive. Folks have been using applications such as DVDShrink and Handbrake to do the job for years–and  the same people have moved movies to phones, media players, and other devices…as well as onto BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer networks, where they’re there for the taking by anyone who can figure out how to download them.

But because such applications decrypt DVDs, their legal status is the U.S., to put it politely, murky. Make that very, very murky, , considering that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act prohibits the circumvention of copy protection. That’s true even if you’re engaging only in the victimless crime of enjoying movies you’ve paid for on a device that doesn’t happen to have a slot for a DVD.

Enter Real Networks’ RealDVD, a Windows program that’s a breakthrough in one significant respect: It’s a DVD-copying program–a ripper, if you like–that doesn’t violate the DMCA. That’s because it doesn’t strip off the copy protection the DVDs came with. Matter of fact, it adds additional copy protection that prevents users from sharing the DVD copies they’ve made, or watching them on anything other than up to five Windows PCs per license; other types of computers and devices aren’t supported. Only a DVD copier that locks down its copies in this fashion could go on the market without risking Hollywood’s wrath.

But RealDVD, which Real says it’ll start selling by the end of this month, is more than a DVD copier that’s hobbled by the fact that it doesn’t flout U.S. law. It copies not just the raw video files from a DVD but the entire DVD experience–bonus materials and all–and recreates them on the PC. And as you copy movies, it identifies them (using GraceNote, the same service that powers the CD-identification powers of iTunes and other music apps), catalogs them using cover art images, and lets you browse them by title, genre, or star. It’s a little like a $30 software version of the $30,000 media server from Kaledescape, a company whose victory in a court case brought by the DVD Copy Control Association last year confirmed that DVD copying can be legal.

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Real DVDs Ripped to Your PC. Legally. Really?

Have you ever ripped a commercial DVD to your PC? If so, you’ve probably used a product like Handbrake whose legality is at best sketchy, since it breaks copy protection and therefore violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Chances of the copyright police breaking down your door and hauling you away are slim. But starting later this month, you might be able to copy all the DVDs you want without fear of legal consequences.

The New York Times is reporting that Real Networks will announce RealDVD tomorrow at the DEMO conference in San Francisco. (Which is where I am–I’ll be in the audience when it does.) Real is presumably betting that it’s figured out a way to make a DVD copying program that won’t be sued into oblivion in a nanosecond. And even if they bet wrong, it’s going to be fascinating to watch it come to market.

RealDVD doesn’t sound like total DVD-copying nirvana: It won’t produce DRM-free copies of DVDs that you can copy at will, download to your iPod, or upload to BitTorrent, according to the Times. Rather, its copies will retain copy protection; you can play them on only up to five PCs, and only if you’ve paid for the $30 software on each of those machines. That’s a significant set of limitations, but it would still allow you to store a library of movies on your hard drive for playback. (I’m not sure offhand whether you’d be able to keep them on a networked hard drive for playback via multiple computers around the house, but I sure hope so–it would be nifty.)

The Times quotes a technology exec at a studio who sounds skeptical about RealDVD, which isn’t surprising; it’s hard to imagine anyone in Hollywood speaking positively about it, at least for the record. But the real question isn’t whether Hollywood is thrilled with the idea of RealDVD–it’s whether it’s legal. If it is, this is great news, and other companies will presumably jump into the market with similar products once Real has tested the legal waters.

I’m looking forward to learning more at DEMO tomorrow, and even more so to trying RealDVD once I can get my hands on it. Keep your fingers crossed: If it is indeed a real way to put DVDs on your PC easily and legally, it’ll be very good news for consumers with DVD collections that they don’t want to be forced to repuchase as digital downloads…


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