Will BD-Live ever be any good?

Eventually, I reckon.

While I was writing the previous post a possible answer to a conundrum occurred to me.

Consumer technology is not built upon an assumption of endless consumer patience. If you provide some feature in your equipment, consumers will expect to be able to press a key on the remote control and have it happen rapidly.

So how do I explain the BD-Live performance — extraordinarily slow performance — on the first dedicated consumer BD-Live Blu-ray player I’ve checked? To get this in perspective, let me loosely outline what happens (loosely, because my beloved stopwatch passed away last night and has yet to be replaced). You place a recent Sony Pictures Entertainment disc in the player and it loads, pausing for the better part of a minute on the BD-Java loading logo. Once that’s done everything proceeds normally until you choose BD-Live from the Special Extras menus, whereupon nothing happens — other than the player becoming completely unresponsive — for I estimate some two minutes. Then the screen goes black, and after another lengthy pause, a ‘progress bar’ appears. This is a four segment bar, and since each segment seems to take half a minute or so, it isn’t very informative.

I blame the Sony PS3. These companies aren’t dumb. When planning to release BD-Live discs they would surely have tested them. Thoroughly. But to test you need equipment. Until a couple of months ago the only BD-Live capable player available was the Sony Playstation 3, so that’s what they would have used for final testing.

The Sony PS3 is not a Blu-ray player. It is a games machine that happens to play Blu-ray. It plays Blu-ray very well indeed, but that it is not primarily what it was built for. It was built for games. To do games at this point in the history of humanity, you need a huge amount of processing power to render the images and provide the multiple processing threads required to monitor, direct and respond to all the characters in the game.

In other words, the PS3 has an industrial strength CPU.

Consumer Blu-ray players don’t. So Blu-ray discs tested to proceed at a consumer tolerable (barely) clip for the PS3 meander at a snail’s pace in a dedicated consumer Blu-ray player.

Don’t despair. Now that consumer BD-Live players are available, the disc developers will be under some pressure to test on those and consequently optimise for much faster performance. Equally, people like me will be criticising the speed with which Blu-ray players do stuff, so there will be some pressure to boost the processing power available to them as well.

What, you doubt the power of the market to deliver these results? The startup and load times of the current generation of dedicated consumer Blu-ray players absolutely kill those of earlier models. Give it, um, time. It will happen.

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