The new "Transformers" DVD hits store shelves today and for us tech gurus -- or geeks, depending on one's point of view -- it's not exactly a great day.
If you have a shiny new Blu-Ray player or a Sony PlayStation3 just waiting to see Michael Bay's hit movie in splendid high definition, you're out of luck.
"Transformers" is being released by Paramount only on the HD-DVD format. The company stopped releasing Blu-Ray discs in August. That also means "Shrek The Third" will not hit stores in Blu-Ray format.
Paramont is in the minority here, as most major studios are supporting Blu-Ray. Some major retailers are stocking only Blu-Ray players and Blu-Ray is all you can rent from Blockbuster.
But just when Blu-Ray gets some serious momentum, the New York Times reports that Paramount received $150 million in financial incentives to get out of the Blu-Ray business.
What it does is make life tough for the consumer. There are a few next-gen DVD players that will do HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, but they cost around $1,000. Most studies show consumers aren't planning to buy a next-gen player yet anyway, and those that are, well, they're confused.
Both systems will deliver crisp clear HDTV signals. Blu-Ray will deliver better picture, however, and better audio. HD-DVD has better bonus features. But in the end, packaged media is on its way out. The future seems to point to digital downloads, something Microsoft is already offering via Xbox Live and Apple via its iTunes store.
DirecTV also plans to launch a "Download On Demand" service that will allow customers with broadband connections to download HDTV content. Many cable services also offer similar on-demand options.
But right now, nothing is better -- in terms of picture quality and immediacy -- than the packaged disc. You can buy or rent the DVDs before they hit cable/satellite PPV outlets or HBO. You can store them easily. The problem is this has become another Beta vs VHS war. I think Blu-Ray has the advantage, but the way things are going, neither format may win.