Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Blu-ray - a real improvement ?

Blu-Ray could be the last physical video media before everything goes on line, and has been seen as a major improvement over the previous generation, the DVD. But is it a real improvement and did the designers really do a good job ? My answer is a big NO if you look at it from a quality perspective.

The first thing to take into account when developing a product is to collect the proper requirements (= the "voice of the customer" in quality terminology). It seems that this phase has not been done properly if at all.

What are the key requirements and the improvements expected over the DVD generation ? and what are the disturbing factors having a zero added value as far as the customer is concerned ?

- improved image quality, HD resolution : good job
- improved sound quality, more possibilities : good job
- more reliable media (scratch resistance, life time) : good job
- general performance of the system (reaction time, startup time) : ridiculously worse (a HUGE problem has been created where there was not problem: what would people say if after they start their engine, they cannot move the car unless they wait for five minutes)
- usability : an incredible step backwards. A complete nonsense user interface with an incredible number of manipulations instead of a single button press on the first DVD remote controllers.
- still a not so compatible system (very few PCs have a BD player, many cars have DVD players, no BD players, Apple does not support the format).
- regional codes: the distributors still don't understand anything about this market. This is an open insult to the user. You can legally buy a disc in a country, move to another (there are more and more world travellers) and you can throw away everything you bought. They just created another reason to STIMULATE piracy.
- languages: while at the beginning of the DVD, you had 8 spoken languages and 16 subtitles on a disc, nowadays you can be lucky if you find the right subtitles and the right language in a country far from the country where you live. This is really becoming ridiculous in Europe. If I live in Belgium, and want the original version (in english), english subtitles and the possibility to have french audio or dutch subtitles (the languages you would expect in Belgium) I often need to buy the discs in Germany, with the box in German.  This is true for DVD and BD by the way. This is in contradiction with the PRINCIPLE of DVD and BD, providing multilingual possibilities. And it is a nonsense for the distributors, who have to manage a huge variety of unnecessary versions while one single version for all of Europe would be easy.
- most discs do not allow to restart from a saved position. You start watching a movie. You stop. You want to see the rest the day after, NO WAY. You must restart and skip to the place where you left (if you remember it). A major step backwards again.

I don't know if I am the only one to think that way, but to me the BD, while being a reasonable commercial success (I personally like the pictures and I have a lot of BDs), is among the major engineering failures of the last twenty years: an extremely badly designed system, probably introduced by incompetent organizations in a hurry.

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