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That Didn't Take Long

And mercifully so -- the battle over the next-gen DVD came to a close as Toshiba threw in the high-def towel today. But as quickly as data and media formats are evolving, does it really matter?
And mercifully so -- the battle over the next-gen DVD came to a close as Toshiba threw in the high-def towel today. But as quickly as data and media formats are evolving, does it really matter?Sony can do its victory dance that the high-definition DVD war, which unlike its Betamax experience, wasn't decided by what the major porn studios went with (oh, you thought Disney was a big VHS supporter?). Instead, Sony smartly struck support deals with the major mainstream studios, then started adding big-box retailers as allies. A shame this couldn't have been settled before we all finished last year's Christmas shopping, but Sony's win here may be academic anyway.

Here's why. Witness the unmistakable momentum of downloaded media -- movies, television shows, YouTube clips, and regular old audio files. The shape-shifting hard drive shows up as an iPhone, a notebook computer, a TiVo recorder. It would seem to render moot the issue of how your rented, physical media is recorded, or played back.

Are Netflix and Blockbuster going to look like the equivalent of payphone operators in 2013? If I threw a Magic 8-Ball in the air, I bet I'd get a decidedly low-def reply: "Definitely. Maybe sooner."

Jan Saxton, VP of analyst firm Adams Media Research, is less convinced of any quick migration. "Eventually we will probably move to an all-download world, but as of year-end 2007, total consumer spending on Internet video purchases was 1% of total video purchase spending," Saxton wrote in an e-mail today. "So it isn't going to happen any time soon."

There are obviously lots of variables in this equation:

-- How fast the studios wake up to the power of downloading while still retaining control and profitability

-- What happens with holographic storage -- even though it's being developed more for enterprise applications, why couldn't it cross over to consumers? Conversely, what's to keep Blu-ray from making holographic storage redundant or needless?

-- How many more hard drives will enter our lives in unexpected applications or shapes? Think automobiles, kitchens, or the inevitable Rent-A-Petabyte services that are bound to pop up to keep all our personal and professional content safe and secure

That's a picture that will take some time to come into clear, sharp focus.

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