Microsoft CEO: Blu-Ray DVD En Route to Xbox 360

Dennis Faas's picture

Well over a year since the HD-DVD format bit the dust, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has hinted that a Blu-ray drive could be on its way to the Xbox 360 console. Like its nigh-forgotten HD-DVD add-on, a future Blu-ray player would be an accessory device, and not built-in as with Sony's PlayStation 3.

Microsoft's HD-DVD player, which attached to the Xbox 360 via USB cable, launched about three years ago. Back then, the Toshiba-fostered format was an equal challenger with Sony's Blu-ray; although the latter offered greater disc storage capabilities, HD-DVD players were much cheaper and the quality of video virtually the same. For its part, Microsoft backed the wrong horse, betting that the sky-high prices of Blu-ray players would make them obsolete.

While Blu-ray has yet to penetrate the mainstream market, its success over HD-DVD was linked to studio support -- Sony had it, and (other than Universal) HD-DVD most definitely did not. Toshiba bowed out of the HD format war last February.

Ballmer: Blu-ray Drives As Accessories

Ever since then, speculation has run high that Microsoft would one day announce a Blu-ray add-on for its Xbox 360 console.

It's worth noting that the HD-DVD player actually sold quite well; at the height of its popularity, the device cost $199 (half the price of most contemporary stand-alone players) and offered a very impressive HD picture. It sold well, and there's plenty of reason to believe that if Microsoft and Sony could somehow work out a deal to ship add-ons in the sub-$149.99 range, a Blu-ray accessory would do very well indeed.

In an interview with Gizmodo, Ballmer appeared to admit that the project was upcoming. "Well I don't know if we need to put Blu-ray in there," Ballmer said, indicating that it probably won't ship "under the hood" as Blu-ray does with the PS3. "You'll be able to get Blu-ray drives as accessories." (Source:

HD Movies Downloadable: The Future

Ballmer backed off a little bit after letting the Blu-ray comment slip, suggesting that the company would rather see people download HD movies from its online service, Xbox Live. According to Ballmer, "the future of movies is on-demand, actually, as opposed to via distribution on physical media." (Source:

Efforts by the press to have Microsoft elaborate on Ballmer's comments led to dead ends. If the company is preparing a Blu-ray add-on to make the Xbox 360 more competitive, technically, with its competitor the Sony PlayStation 3, then it isn't yet ready to admit so publicly.

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