Is Apple Softening Their Stance On Blu-Ray?

Is Apple Softening Their Stance On Blu-Ray?

One interesting aspect of Apple’s release of Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, and Compressor 4 to the Mac App Store is the inclusion of Blu-Ray encoding support in those apps. Could Apple be softening their stance on Blu-Ray? Read on for our take on the matter.

The Blu-Ray debate within the Apple has traditionally revolved around the importance and use of Blu-Ray for consumer applications, such as watching HD videos. Steve Jobs has been quoted as saying that Blu-Ray is a “bag of fail,” and that today’s broadband-connected computing environment has rendered the technology obsolete even before it became mainstream. These arguments, however, often ignore the professional crowd.

Video producers and editors, who often work with large movie files, have previously been limited to using DVD’s to store their video projects for common viewing, which does not allow enough space for HD-quality content unless multiple discs are spanned. Blu-Ray discs, with their greatly enhanced storage space (up to 50GB), offer a much better video sharing medium for this type of content. Further, I wonder if the inclusion of Blu-Ray encoding support is just the beginning.

While many users do indeed obtain movies, music, and software via their fast internet connections, it’s also important to consider that a certain segment of users don’t have access to high-speed internet where they live, making it difficult to watch the latest hi-definition movies without resorting to an optical disc.

Further, again addressing the professional video crowd, when a user does use Final Cut Pro X to burn video content on a DVD, how will they “proof” their burned disc? Since Mac’s can’t currently natively play Blu-Ray video content, the editor would have to use a second Windows laptop with Blu-Ray capabilities, or use a Blu-Ray unit hooked to their TV. Not exactly convenient.

While there have been 3rd-party solutions for some time (such as Toast 11 Titanium or Pro, which we reviewed a while back) allowing users to burn video, music, and data to Blu-Ray discs, there has never been any official Apple support of any kind for Blu-Ray discs (other than being able to read files off of them.

While it’s technically possible to view Blu-Ray content on a Mac even now (we covered one method for doing this back in May), the experience is not the same, as Blu-Ray videos lack menus, and accessing the video files can be something of a guessing game.

While optical media, in a general sense, might be seen as being “on the way out”, I do not believe that that time has come yet for a large enough percentage of users that the death of optical media will be occurring any time soon. Is it possible that Apple has come to feel the same way?

In the end, the question that I would raise is: given that Apple has now included Blu-Ray support within Final Cut Pro X ($299, Mac App Store) and it’s companions, what’s next? Could Apple release a Blu-Ray burner, or even make Blu-Ray drives an option on upcoming Mac Pros, Mac Minis, or even MacBook Pros? And will they ever enable full system-wide support for Blu-Ray media in OS X? Could this even be a “surprise” feature in OS X Lion?

We don’t have the answers, but we’ll be watching in anticipation in the coming months, hoping that Apple decides to capitalize on Blu-Ray and make it available to their consumers as a choice, because despite Steve’s apparent thoughts on Blu-Ray, broadband, and digital media, consumer choice is important.

What are your thoughts on this debate? As always, we value your thoughts, so please sound off in the comments!