Opinion: Blu-ray or HD DVD -- neither, thanks

Most consumers won't even be affected by the outcome of the format skirmish

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Pete Putnam, president of ROAM Consulting, and who runs the Web site HDTVexpert.com, believes the future of hi-def media resides on spinning disk and flash drives, and that the war between Blu-ray and HD DVD is mostly inconsequential. He estimates that over the lifespan of hi-def DVD players, fewer than 10 million will ever be sold, and movie studios couldn't care less who wins the current battle.

"Universal could care less; Warner Bros. could care less if optical disk goes away. That's not the business they're in. Sony cares because that's the business they're in," Putnam says. "To me, this [Blu-ray vs. HD DVD] is not the U.S. at war with Germany like World War II. This is more like El Salvador fighting Honduras. Some people know there's a war there, but the outcome doesn't really affect too many people."

The average consumer isn't looking forward to the day that Blu-ray becomes more affordable. They're looking forward to getting a video-on-demand dual-DVR Motorola cable box or a new Dish SlingBox Personal Broadcaster so they can time shift the content they're playing off their television or any high-speed Internet connection with all kinds of options that optical disc doesn't offer.

VUDU's digital media receiver has USB ports, and the company is planning to add Firewire ports for high-speed download. The service works by either renting or buying up to 100 hours of hi-def movies or television. Rentals range from 99 cents to $3.99, and movies can be purchased from $4.99 to $19.99. TV episodes are $1.99. Concerned about storage capacity if you don't have a VUDU box? On my desk, I have a 500GB external hard drive to back up my laptop. You can buy one too on PriceGrabber.com for less than $150. In my desk drawer, I have an 8GB USB flash drive from Corsair -- a 32GB model capable of holding 16 hi-def movies can be had for less than less than $200. The point is, if you need storage for your videos, it's out there and it's quickly getting bigger and cheaper -- even cheaper than a Blu-ray Disc player.

If you're concerned that hard drives, and even flash drives, have a limited life span, and you're worried you may lose the movies you downloaded, you shouldn't. Digital media receiver services, such as Amazon's Unbox and TiVo, and soon to come services from Comcast and other cable providers have records showing what movies customers have purchased. So it's easy to see a business model in the future that if you were to lose your movies, they could be downloaded over and over again for free.

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