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Enough with the HD DVD, Blu-ray battle. Bring on downloads!

Both sides of the high-definition DVD format war are fooling themselves, says Don Reisinger of the CNET Blog Network. They're forgetting about the computer.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

I don't know about you, but I'm sick and tired of people in the HD DVD camp telling the world that its format is winning the high-definition DVD battle and the people in the Blu-ray DVD camp claiming that their format is taking hold of the industry. If you ask me, both sides are just fooling themselves.

For years, we have been under the impression that the only way to get movies into our homes is to use hardware. And while that may have been true years ago, that idea is a bunch of hogwash now.

For a fee, you can now download movies from places like Movielink and Amazon.com without blinking an eye. Why spend hundreds of dollars on a device that works best with an HDTV when you can buy just the movies and enjoy them on the device you use in the most places? That is, on your computer.

And before someone runs out and tells me that watching movies on a laptop or desktop couldn't be worse, let me tell you why it's not half bad.

First off, Dell and Apple make great cinema display monitors that range in size from 20 to 30 inches. And while the price on those beauties may be a bit higher than most of us would like to spend, they dole out the best picture quality you can find on a monitor.

Secondly, laptop displays are actually getting noticeably better, and the thought of watching a movie on a plane or on the subway isn't so out of line anymore.

OK, so maybe the hardware solution isn't for you. If you head on over to Amazon and buy Shooter, for example, you can download the file after purchase in one of three formats: DVD-quality for your PC, a Windows media file suitable for use on all portable Windows devices, or a TiVo series 2 or 3 version that can be seamlessly transferred straight to your digital video recorder box.

If you're not a fan of large displays or Amazon, you might also want to try using iTunes and an Apple TV. And while the quality of the video (where's some nice HD?) is still a bit suspect, it's still a practical alternative to buying an HD DVD or Blu-ray player.

I don't know what it is, but I just can't justify spending the kind of money you need to spend in order to play high-definition DVDs in your home. The only downside to downloading videos right now is the length of time it takes to do so. Because our connection speeds are so slow, some people are unwilling to wait the amount of time it takes to download a 2GB or 3GB file.

Me? I would rather plan ahead, start the download about five or six hours before I want to watch the movie, and go find something constructive to do. After all, think of the interest I'm earning from not buying one of those expensive players.

As I have mentioned previously, I think Blu-ray and HD DVD are just transitional devices that will not take off as much as the DVD or even the VHS. The jump in quality, while noticeable, is not enough to justify mass hysteria, and to be honest, most people are tired of looking at another device sitting on top of their TVs. Wouldn't you rather get rid of the middleman and control everything from the couch?

Sure, it may be years off, but the day will come when we can browse the Internet looking for our favorite movies, legally download them onto our TVs and within minutes and enjoy them without moving an inch. And while some believe this day will come in another decade, I think it'll come sooner.

Soon enough, a dam will break, and connection speeds will increase dramatically. When this happens, companies will capitalize and release hardware and software solutions that promise much of what I'm talking about. And when that happens, you can say good-bye to the need for a dedicated DVD player.

The Digital Home is an idea, an expectation. And before we know it, the ideas and expectations outlined above will become a reality. So before you run out and buy the newest Blu-ray or HD DVD player, consider the alternatives before you spend your hard-earned money.