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DVD, RIP

Written by Gary North on January 30, 2013

The Philips Company, a Netherlands giant, is best known in the USA for the Norelco electric razor. It has sold off its consumer electronics line.

Fifty years ago, Philips introduced the audio cassette.

It could no longer compete with Japan in the consumer electronics market. The head of the company said that the DVD, even Blu-Ray, is dead. People get their entertainment online.

That is an exaggeration, but it’s close to the truth. I bought a Blu-Ray player over a year ago. I have used it once. It was cheap. It is also useless. I cannot see much difference between a regular DVD and a Blu-Ray DVD.

I dropped Netflix’s DVD rental service. I watch its streaming videos. I rarely view a new DVD.

Philips failed to keep up. It bet on the Sony Betamax format 30 years ago. It lost. It did not see the CD-ROM coming until it was too late. It played catch-up. It cooperated with Sony on the DVD, beginning in 1997. But the consumer electronics division never caught up. Yet it was once a highly competitive company in consumer electronics: an innovator. It just failed to stay ahead of the curve.

Customers decided the firm’s fate. They bought from rival firms. The firm, which had been Europe’s largest manufacturer, lost market share. Customers are economically sovereign under capitalism. Manufacturers are not.

The company was founded in 1891 by a father/son team. It grew to become a European giant after the second son was brought into the business. Their grandfather was a Jewish banker. His name was Lion Philips. He had a unique distinction. He was Karl Marx’s uncle, the sister of Marx’s mother. He thought Marx was a bum. He was right.

The greatest enemy of capitalism and the father/grandfather of three of the greatest capitalist innovators came from the same family. This is one of the oddest facts in modern European history.

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11 thoughts on “DVD, RIP

  1. Gasp Karl Marx a bum? I have heard that too.

    • It is reported that Karl Marx's mother in law said that he should go out and earn some capital instead of writing about it.

  2. Funny….I refuse to sign up for Netflix, etc. I don't want to subscribe to everything in the world to do what I want, watch what I want to, find my music, etc. Those subscriptions add up very quickly. When I buy a CD, DVD, etc. (maybe a few times a year), I at least control what gets spent when. I also don't like the idea of my identity all over the place.

    • That's what I do. I buy the DVD's and watch them. In serials, it does take away some of the excitement, because cliffhangers cease to be cliffhangers when one can run directly into the next installment. It does, however, take away the blurring of reality that something is actually "happening" on TV shows.

      My deceased wife used to like to watch TV. Her dishnet bill was about 120 dollars a month, but I never could find anything to watch. Now I just watch broadcast TV, and I still have nothing to watch, but nothing at $0 compared to nothing at $120 is a steal.

  3. Gary, DVD Blu Ray is fantastic!! They use DTS-HD for the surround process, most of the time, and the sound quality is stupendous; it blows everything else away!
    Most people are not critical listeners for music and have difficulty distinguishing the differences. This may be your situtation. But those who have been audio enthusiasts are quick to note the differences.
    Of course, it helps to have a high quality Home Theater system to appreciate it, and also a Hi Res HD TV as well. Blu Ray to DVD visual differences are stunning; sharper image, vibrant color, depth perception, etc. There is no comparison.
    We still buy CD's and DVD Blu Ray discs, we like having ownership of something physical in our hands, rather than a library downloaded to a file. Big hassle to replace it if its lost.
    But whatever technological chances come we will have to roll with it!!

    • We do not have to "roll" with technology. The only thing we need to do is keep up to the point of functionality. If 8-tracks were still around, I'd still be using an 8-track player. The consumerism-driven economy, if not dead, should be if we want to survive. Consumerism has even hit professional services like medicine and dentistry, where doctors talk patients into having optional cosmetic procedures that cost a lot, but are not covered by insurance, because insurance won't pay squat for most necessary services.

      The 1981 movie "Time Bandits" satirized this with a line in which the mother stated her envy of her neighbor, who had a microwave that would cook a roast 12 seconds faster than her own would.

  4. Interesting you bring up Sony and Betamax. Sony developed both formats, VHS and Beta, but in their arrogance they felt that Beta was superior (slightly) and they SOLD THE RIGHTS to their VHS designs!!! So some other companies snatched it up, improved it, and dominated the market, eventually crushing Sony's Beta system. It became obsolete very quickly. Sony then became more competitive, rather than innovative, but trying to introduce the L-Cassette and then the MiniDisc to compete with Phillips CD design. Big Fail on both accounts. Those were some fun days in the Audio/Video world, but the current crop of technologically advanced products are astounding! It's amazing to me how great a pair of computer speakers, under $30, can sound!! Of course, they don't compare with my $10,000 home theater system, but they sound amazing for what they are!
    But anyone who goes to the CES show can still capture some of the attitude and arrogance that goes with owning "High End" equipment! It's a status symbol for people with more money that self image!! For others its a matter of appreciating the best performance.

    • The reason that Betamax died is that the porn industry selected the VHS format to deliver porn. The public apparently likes porn so much that it would not pay for a media device that made it impossible to watch porn. Betamax was actually better technologically, but prurient interest trumps technology.

      • Certainly that was a contributing factor. I recall video rental stores (how anachronistic!) would have scores of movies, old and new, on VHS but never on Beta!!

  5. If I'm interpreting your writing correctly then sorry Mr. North but if you can't tell the difference between a DVD and a blu-ray you need to have your eyes checked. There is a striking difference between a 1080p (blu-ray HD resolution) and 480p (DVD resolution). Maybe you just need to get up to date on more of the latest technology.

  6. Dark Patriot says:

    My son had to show me the difference between Blu-ray and a DVD. The difference is hugh. I still don't care.

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