The DVD came out in 1997 and if it lasts 26 years, some new medium will replace it in 2023. But it is already looking like DVD may not be around that long. For example, there are nearly a dozen solid-state flash memory formats. Now that their capacities are reaching the GB phase, video is a definite possibility. Of course gigabyte flash memory cards are still quite expensive, relative to the DVD, so it is unlikely that we will distribute video on this format for $20 anytime soon. Maybe we could rent movies on reusable cards some day.
That idea may be dead in the water, however, considering you can download movies over a broadband connection today. The speeds aren’t quite there for full-length movies and most people reasonably don’t want to watch movies on their computers, but it is just fine for audio. More than that, electronic distribution of digital audio over the Internet has seriously cut into the sale of CDs. And that’s not just from piracy: the success of iTunes and other online retailers proves that people are willing, nay eager, to pay for downloading music. And there are even services you can subscribe to for a monthly fee (about $10) that will let you listen to any song you want, in a high quality format, at the click of a mouse. Why do you need to even own a copy of a song, whether on a disc or on your hard drive, if you can listen to anything you want, any time you want? When we’re jogging, driving or otherwise not connected to the Internet, we’ll need a different media of course, but that is just a technical issue.
Technology is changing at a break-neck pace. I don’t think that DVD is going to evaporate completely, anymore than I think CDs are doomed. There are still hundreds of millions of disc players in homes and cars around the nation. Still, after considering the history of audio, somehow, I can’t imagine that we’ll stay with the DVD for too much longer. We may be at the end of the period where any one physical medium dominates the market.
Matthew York is Videomaker‘s Publisher/Editor.