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Panelists: Blu-ray Has Nothing To Fear From IPTV … Yet

TWICE:Do you think IP-connected TVs will blunt Blu-ray before it has a chance to establish itself in the mass market?

Jeannette Howe, Specialty Electronics Nationwide: No way! For the first time we have a software medium that is relatively ubiquitous. Discs can be played in your office, on the airplane, in your home, in your car: everywhere. Plenty of people take pleasure in going to the video store and browsing shelves of new releases. Baby boomers, particularly those not as computer savvy, enjoy owning retail products rather than virtual products.

Personally, I am very exited about IP-connected TVs — I want to see everything from the kitchen appliances, sprinklers, security to energy management networked — but I don’t think the everyday consumer in all markets is ready for my vision of the future just yet. My mother will never download a movie.

Rick Souder, Crutchfield: I believe most customers will be satisfied with packaged media for quite a few years to come. Choices are plentiful, and the rights to view programming you have purchased or rented do not expire.

Downloading and streaming will certainly grow, but will remain alien to most customers. While we may stream movies, how many of our neighbors do?

In addition, it appears that consumers will face more bandwidth restraints that limit their ability to get a good streaming/downloading experience, or will have to pay more for the necessary capabilities. Only early adopters are likely to make the investments in time and money required to get electronic movies, while the mass market stays with DVD and Blu-ray for several years to come.

Of course, anyone who makes it easier, faster and more customer-friendly to stream or download movies will accelerate the process. Until that happens, adoption will be steady but not game-changing.

Dan Schwab, D&H Distributing: IP-connected TV is still basically in its infancy. In the long-term, people will be able to download and share content more easily, both inside and outside the home. But we are a ways away from critical mass, while Blu-ray continues to gain deeper penetration.

Dave Workman, PRO Group: I believe IPTV is at least two years away from being a demand item for the customer. With $99 pricing on Blu-ray players expected this fall, I think we will not only see continued growth for the format, but one could argue that it has already entered the mass market and is being purchased as a DVD player that can support Blu-ray.

Tom Galanis, Sixth Avenue Electronics: They appeal to different customers. Blu-ray is for the high-end, best-in-class video and audio. IPTV will be big by itself.

Ross Rubin, The NPD Group: First, more must be done to bridge the network connection in the living room. Digital distribution requires tradeoffs between quality and download time that are not a factor with Blu-ray. Indeed, Blu-ray players should do much to aid digital distribution since they are significantly less expensive than the higher-end televisions where we’re seeing networking today.

Blu-ray faces a stronger threat from the on-demand HD offerings from cable and telco TV providers, but here too the threat is more on the rental side than the purchase side.

Steve Caldero, Ken Crane’s: Right now there is still nothing like a Blu-ray 1080p movie on an HD set. The picture is spectacular. Internet delivery systems like Vudu and Apple TV are making great inroads, but can still take up to 6 hours to download in HD or 1080p, not real convenient for the consumer who wants instant gratification.

But Blu-ray software is priced too high. More consumers would buy the software if they lowered the price.