To make 1080p video and uncompressed audio downloads a reality, "we would need a massive increase in the backbone of the Internet," explains Doherty. In fact, he says the Web could very well come to a halt "if only one family in 10 downloaded just a DVD-quality movie every night, let alone an HD-quality one. The network and servers are not up to routine HD delivery."
But the Internet could have its act together in as soon as five years. Dave Devereaux-Weber, a network consultant for the Division of Information Technology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison - a member of the Internet2 consortium - guesses that by 2011, Internet networks will have new, superfast routers and modules in place that will allow you to download an HD DVD- or Blu-ray-quality movie in as little as 15 minutes. (That assumes, he says, that you wouldn't just want to watch a streaming version.) Of course, to do this you'd need a fiber-optic connection to your home - a service actually available today with Verizon's FiOS system, which offers transfer speeds as fast as 100 megabits per second.
Parsons, meanwhile, says the Blu-ray camp isn't worried about the potential of downloads. The two, he says, can happily coexist. "To me, it's intellectual laziness when people keep saying, 'All this packaged media stuff is just going to go away and be replaced by downloads. I don't see downloads replacing optical media on the video side any more than they have on the audio side. You still have more than 90% of music sales on compact discs."
Parsons also warns: "If you start building up a significant collection of movies on your hard drive, and your hard drive dies - and that's going to happen - you've just thrown away an awful lot of money."
However you get your high-def content (even if you're willing to wait three weeks for Halle Berry to arrive through the Internet), Parsons reminds you to settle for no less than super. "If you're going into high-def, you really want the best picture you can get. Otherwise, why bother?" And to HD video providers, he says, "If you've degraded it to where it's not so easily discernable from standard-def, what are you selling?"
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