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Blu-ray drives in MacBooks soon, or...

COW Blogs : Is this thing on? Oh it's on. : Blu-ray drives in MacBooks soon, or...

...or so some observers believed in 2006! This was upon the news of the second laptop to include Blu-ray drives, this one from Dell. And why not? When Apple joined the Blu-ray Disc Association in 2005, they said they were committed to promoting the format. Seen anything to back that up since then? Anything?

I think Dell makes better computers than a lot of people think, and you certainly have them to thank for the idea of truly custom configurations and computer sales over the internet, both of which they practiced years before many others did. But their stuff is nothing next to Sony's. The VAIO line is pretty elegant, and introduced thin form factors, wide screens and 1920x1080 res back before the turn of the century.

Oh wait, Apple still doesn't support 1920x1080. In fact, the current fave res for PCs is 1980x1200, to allow player controls on a 1920x1080 movie. I love my MacBook Pro - I use it for 90% of my computing, 100% for the last few months, and I am of course typing on it now. But I've long ranted about how far behind the curve Apple's display technology is, and this is one of many examples of what I mean.


So back in MAY OF 2006, they introduced a laptop with these specs:

1920x1080Blu-ray reading AND WRITINGHDMI out, so you could play those Blu-ray disks out to your HDTVBuilt-in TV tuner4 GB RAM standardGeForce 7800 with 256 MB VRAMBuilt-in camera

At least the 17" MBP has those last 2 now.

The price of that Sony laptop 2 years ago was $3500, very much in keeping with the $2500 price of the MBP plus 2 more gigs of RAM when you add back in the 2 years of price decline for today's MBP...which 2 years later has no TV tuner, no HDMI, no Blu-ray reading or writing, and no 1920 res.


And then just about a year ago, Sony introduced a later VAIO that unambiguously smacks on the MBP, with a few tweaks from the previous year's model to bring the base price under $2000.

15 in. screen (check - second lightest in the game after the MBP)Santa Rosa Intel (check...wait, a YEAR ago?!?)No longer standard 1920x1080 res, but you can upgrade to that! I HATE that MBP's video options aren't upgradeableHDMI 1.3 a YEAR agoBlu-ray burner/readerUpgradeable to 400 GB storage with 2 internal 200 GB hard drives a YEAR ago

Did I mention that the base price was under $2000?

Again, I love my MBP, and am using it now. I've never owned a VAIO. I'm just saying that Apple has a long way to go to catch up to the state of the art. Oh, and lest anybody suggest that Sony brought these models out because they had such a large stake in Blu-ray's success, I say, not so fast. The exact numbers are hard to pin down, but most of the sources I've found place Sony's stake in the format at somewhere around 20%. (Look it up - plenty of references.) The job of the laptop team is NOT to support the Blu-ray team (Japanese companies don't work that way). Their job is to sell laptops, and with this kind of price-performance, they're keeping themselves at the top of the PC game.Couple of other notes as I write this on Sunday March 2 aught 8, Acer has also announced Blu-ray enabled laptops in Q2, supporting 1080p in both 16 and 18 in configurations. (I have no idea what's up with those sizes.)And in a "you had to see this coming" announcement from the week before, Toshiba has confirmed that it isn't ruling out Blu-ray drives on its laptops.  I'm not sure what "confirmed" means in the context of "maybe," but there you go. The "see this coming" part is because Toshiba still has the biggest laptop market share...and see above re: Sony. These guys couldn't care one flip about the outcome of the format war. They have numbers to meet, and they'll do what it takes. 

Now, to see why this would be cool, check out the specs on T's HD DVD laptop last summer. HD DVD-r of course, and the usual suspects (802.11n, webcam, bluetooth, etc.) but check out the rest:Santa Rosa 2Ghz Core 2 DuoGeForce 8600 with 512 MB VRAM (!!!)included HD tunerfingerprint reader (a big deal for business computers, trust me)2 160 GB drives4 Harmon Kardon speakersEarly last summer, for $3199 stock. You might not care about some of these features, but the price-performance is once again, well ahead of the current generation of MBPs, and maybe the next.

The fact is that I DO own a Toshiba laptop from my PC days. After 4 years, I still love it, a true entertainment powerhouse -- cable tuner, built-in (and very good) DVR with one-click burning to DVD (from 4 years ago, so SD of course), and the best sound I've ever heard on a laptop...with only 2 Harmon Kardon speakers. You know they sound great since HK was the first, and still the best, mfr of matched external speakers for the Mac.

My point isn't to pee on my own MBP...ewwww....a computer that I truly adore. Just an addition to Walter's admonition to Apple, to shake a leg and add the features that have existed on PCs for years.Final notes from our peeps at Wired:Later this month (3/08), Dell will ship a sub-$1000 Blu-ray enabled laptop. Wouldn't it be a kick to see this introduced in the MacBook, or even iMac, before the MBP? It's happened before. And btw, if it would work with the Pro Apps, I'd use a 13" MacBook in a heartbeat. Still the biggest bang for the buck in the Mac universe, and a great form factor.

The bulk of the article focuses on what an energy pig the Blu-ray drives are for laptops. The big thing is that Blu-rays decode is currently processor-intensive, but efforts are underway to move that to the GPU. I suspect that this is how Dell is pulling off the sub-$1000 price: a less expensive CPU, and as is ALWAYS the case (grrrr), a less expensive, higher-performing GPU than the MBP has.

So, to invoke the Prophet Biscardi again, Hello Apple! What about it?


Posted by: Tim Wilson on Mar 2, 2008 at 7:52:18 amComments (1) apple, bluray, hd dvd, computers


Not one to hold my breath...
by Ron Lindeboom

...when it comes to waiting for Apple to take the fore. As seen at NAB press events (where Apple users will hail as the Second Coming features that have been in PC counterparts for years), Apple has for years been perfecting The Role of Number Two. They have watched the pioneering leaders, watching to see what works and what doesn't. Then they finally move. This is not a bad strategy. They used it with the iPod and now dominate the industry. They used it with Final Cut and now have a few million "Mac dongles" connected to it -- regardless of the fact that many copies are not legal, the dongle is putting money in Apple's pocket.

So, now that Blu-ray has won the Format War -- at least for a while -- will Apple roll-out a Blu-ray powered laptop anytime soon? Me, I have learned that holding one's breath waiting for Apple is both unhealthy and tough on one's nerves, to boot.

My MacBook Pro is a great machine -- for the money it better be -- but my third-of-the-price HP Pavilion has many things that my MacBook Pro still lacks. But I will give Apple its due, they do indeed make an OS that looks, feels and is well ahead of many areas of the PC Experience.

But in that too, there are areas that the PC is and will likely be far ahead of the Mac for years to come.

To those whose mileage varies, your opinion is yours as mine is mine. 

Ah, to have an attention span...


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