The lack of blue laser playback penetration, the high cost of media, and the fact that video production hasn't yet made the transition to an HD world all indicate that it will be a while before blue laser really hits the mainstream. "We're starting to get some questions on blue laser, but I don't think that's going to develop for some time," says Mark Strobel, VP of sales and marketing for Primera Technology."It's more curiousity than any pent-up demand waiting for those formats to come out."
In terms of the format wars, there have been a few announcements regarding Blu-ray-capable duplicators in recent months—and none whatsoever for HD DVD-based systems--but for the most part the manufacturers don't really care which format wins out. As a result, they'll pursue whichever format customers demand more. "Our stance has been kind of an inverse field of dreams: if they need it, we'll build it," says John McGrath, east coast sales manager for MF Digital.
All of these factors have led some customers to hold off on purchasing duplication equipment until after this all plays out, which certainly makes sense in an atmosphere of uncertainty, but isn't necessarily the only viable approach. "I'm telling my customers not to wait," says ProCon's Bruno. "Whatever format prevails we'll be able to provide them with a kit to upgrade their machines to HD-DVD or Blu-ray. It'll just be a matter of an instructions packet, the number of drives the customer requires, and perhaps a new controller, and that's it." And most duplicator manufacturers are already designing the infrastructure into their systems to handle the larger datasets with an eye towards easy upgrading to blue-laser capabilities.
While the current status of blue laser may seem muddled, its future adoption by mainstream markets does appear rosy, especially if historical trends for physical media continue with this next-generation format. "This is the third iteration of formats. First you had CD, then DVD, and now HD. This time around with blue laser, though, the price of the recorders right out of the chute is dramatically lower than for either of the other two," Suden explains. "The first CD recorders were literally tens of thousands of dollars, the first DVD recorders were thousands, but the first blue laser recorder will be under a thousand dollars. The media's still pretty expensive," he adds, "but even still it's about the same price point that these other formats came out at."