After a conspicuous absence at CES, we have to ask: Is Blu-ray dead?

CES 2011 is over, and barely a word was expelled on the subject of Blu-ray. Has the format had its day? Are we all too busy with digital downloads to care about it?

One of the surprising things about CES 2011 was the greatly reduced emphasis on Blu-ray. And while it's not going away, the major manufacturers were definitely focusing much more on Internet content. Which makes us wonder: what future does Blu-ray have? Has it been a failure?

Although every electronics company has a new range of Blu-ray players, neither of the biggest -- Sony and Panasonic -- went out of their way to draw our attention to them. Sony had a portable, glasses-free 3D Blu-ray player which got our juices flowing, but Blu-ray hardware got only a passing mention in its keynote speech.

In some ways, that's not surprising, given that Sony was also showing off its Google TV system -- another nail in the coffin of the physical disc. It joins the company's own Bravia Internet TV service, which already offers a variety of streaming video services from the likes of LoveFilm and the BBC's iPlayer .

Likewise, Panasonic's major announcement was the scrapping of Viera Cast and the introduction of Viera Connect, which supports not only video on demand, but also apps to access services on both TVs and Panasonic's new Viera tablet .

More interesting is the increase in premium video content on the new service. In the past -- especially in the UK -- Panasonic has failed to do deals with content creators, leaving its service looking rather weak. Now, the company is going all out with baseball, American football and TV on-demand services such as Hulu making an appearance, at least in the US. Viera Connect hardware can also play games, something Blu-ray promised but was never able to deliver on. 

Samsung launched several new players this year, all of which look fantastic and exciting. But perhaps this is even more proof that the format is dead. DVD players never needed the glitz and glam of unusual, try-hard hardware to fly off the shelves. And Samsung has built such competent media playback and Internet functionality into its players it has, perversely, convinced us we don't really need the discs any more.

Physical media was always on borrowed time, but this year's CES seems to prove people are losing interest. Anecdotal evidence tells us Blu-ray has never managed to achieve the success it should have in a world where HD TVs are selling in such massive volumes.

Is Blu-ray dead? Your thoughts are welcome below.

 

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