Microsoft predicts Blu-ray's demise

Microsoft has sided with Apple in a rare case of solidarity between the two companies, and declares that Blu-ray will be "passed by" as a high-definition format.

The company is making something of a habit of declaring this or that technology dead at the moment, with Kinect head Kudo Tsunoda having stated that "hardly anyone" plays PC games any more.

Now it's the turn of the company's UK Xbox head, Stephen McGill, who says that Blu-ray's days are numbered.

In an interview with gaming site Xbox Achievements, Gill stated that "actually Blu-ray is going to be passed by as a format."

He claims that "people have moved through from DVDs to digital downloads and digital streaming, so we offer full HD 1080p Blu-ray quality streaming instantly, no download, no delay" via the company's Zune service.

"People now recognise what a smart decision it was to keep the [Xbox 360] pricing low," he said, referring to Microsoft's decision to omit a next-generation high-capacity optical storage drive.

The company also quietly sidelined its lame duck of an HD-DVD add-on for the console. Gill clearly believes that the beginning of the end for physical media is here.

In many ways, it's hard to disagree. US markets have seen the demand for legal digital downloads of PC games exceed sales of the physical object for the first time, and Apple famously refuses to put a Blu-ray drive in its Macs, as Jobs prefers to send people towards iTunes to download their entertainment.

That said, there's an argument for physical media, too. A recent survey suggested that the majority of gamers prefer physical discs, and digital downloads have the secondary effect of entirely cutting out the popular market for second-hand films and games - a plus for publishers, but a big negative for the consumer.

Consumers who find themselves on a capped Internet connection, where streaming a single high-definition film over Zune can swallow up to half their allotted monthly transfer allowance, are also unlikely to find the idea of ditching physical media all that alluring.

In the end, only time will tell if Gill's claims are true - or if the next Xbox winds up shipping with a Blu-ray drive.