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UMD Format's Death Rattle Begins 191

Next Generation reports that Wal-mart is dumping the UMD format, because no one was buying movies with the media. Above and beyond that decision, the studios are unimpressed as well. From the article: "One unnamed president of a major studio is quoted as saying, 'No one's watching movies on PSP. It's a game player, period.' Universal Studios Home Entertainment has ceased UMD production. One exec told Reuters, 'Sales are near zilch. It's another Sony bomb.' Paramount is also considering its future with PSP's format. An exec said, 'We are on hiatus with UMD. Releasing titles on UMD is the exception rather than the rule. No one's even breaking even on them.'"
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UMD Format's Death Rattle Begins

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  • Betamax was better (Score:5, Insightful)

    by b1t r0t ( 216468 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @12:44PM (#15026842)
    At least Betamax had some technical reasons for people to consider it better than VHS. UMDs cost the same as (or more than) DVDs, with less resolution.
    • by Cy Sperling ( 960158 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @01:05PM (#15027072)
      Also, for as much flack as Betamax still gets- people don;t seem to realize that Betamax later evolved into BetaCam and Digital BetaCam. Those 2 formats are still the standard for 95% of all profesional broadcasting (pre HD of course). Beta may have failed at the consumer level, but the technology paid back in spades in the pro market.
    • I sometimes wonder if Sony's R&D money would have been better spent on a read-only Memory Stick variant for games. With some clever engineering, they could prevent "PSP Sticks" from being read by any old schmuck with a 6-in-1 card reader, ROM chips would be cheaper, and load times should improve.* I wonder how much the UMD drive's motor has on battery life?

      *: Based on my own anecdotal evidence. Maybe my sample set is too small, but every PSP game I've played has been slower than dirt.

      • That's called a cartridge, and they abandoned it in favor of the optical disc for a couple of reasons:

        1) Optical discs hold more data.
        2) They are far cheaper to make.

        In doing so they sacrificed a few things:

        1) Loading speed
        2) Energy conservation
        3) Durability of the read drive

        I think of it this way: Sony had a certain set of priorities for the PSP.

        1) PS2-esque graphics
        2) Portable size
        3) Games $50 or less

        That could not be achieved with anything but a UMD-like optical disc. They would have to sacrifice graphic
        • How do you figure? The DS uses carts, and they're well priced. All the graphics rendering happens outside the cart anyway.
          • by SetupWeasel ( 54062 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @04:47PM (#15029407) Homepage
            Nintendo keeps game costs down by keeping cart capacity down. The current maximum DS cart size is 256 MB, and Resident Evil DS was the first to use that size. Most games use smaller carts, because studios have to spend less per game to print it.

            Development costs for the DS are also much lower than a console game, so game makers need less of a profit margin to recoup the costs of their games.

            The PSP needs space for all those textures and stuff to make a game that fully utilizes the hardware. All those extra polygons have to be coded into the game, and that takes space.

    • by sirwired ( 27582 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @01:32PM (#15027318)
      This is a persistent myth that has gone on for decades, and has become "accepted wisdom". Betamax did have higher-quality output (though not by much), but it was certainly not a superior format, at least IMHO. The true test of any technology, is "does it meet the consumer's needs?". In the case of Betamax for a long time, the answer was "not as well as the available VHS machines", not even close for "regular folks". For the extremely limited market of Videophiles, Beta may have been better, but that couldn't sustain the market.

      In technology, a common axiom is "Cheap, Fast, Good, pick two." VHS was Fast (shipped worthwhile features MUCH faster than Sony did), and MUCH cheaper. Beta only had "Good".

      For starters, there were too few makers of machines and the price was too high. In addition, the first Betamax player was quite feature-poor. The damn thing didn't even come with a clock. You had to buy that as an add-on feature. VHS was ruthless about exploiting this.

      2nd, and perhaps most importantly, the capacity was too low. It took quite some time before Sony shipped a tape that could run longer than ONE HOUR. This was colossally stupid. Sony KNEW how to extend it, but the morons in Sony design thought one-hour was an acceptable limit. VHS shipped the 4-hour capable T-120 right out of the gate, with quality that was acceptable. While the quality at the lower tape speed wasn't as good, it was doable for just recording soaps, or whatever. When Sony got wind of the VHS's recording time, they shipped a two-hour Betamax machine, using of course a slower tape speed to extend the time. Of course, this also eliminated most of Betamax's quality advantage.

      Time and time again, all Betamax had was slightly superior video quality (VHS and Beta both made continuous improvements to the machines, so Beta wasn't THAT far ahead.) Also, Betamax decks kept the tape threaded at all times, which put a LOT of wear on the tape during Rewind/FF operations. To top it off, Sony made a LOT of mistakes about simple features. VHS was first to ship a pause button on the remote, the first with the longer recording time, the first with a standard programmable timer, the first with an infrared remote, the first with front-loading, the first with a camcorder that didn't suck, feature-wise, the list goes on.

      In summary, all Beta had going for it was video quality, but couldn't back it up with features worth a damn. This was compounded by colossal errors in finance, OEM relations and marketing.

      • by metamatic ( 202216 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @02:07PM (#15027677) Homepage Journal
        That still doesn't explain the Betamax failure, though.

        By the time I saw my first home video recorder, the early problems of Betamax had been eliminated. The machine had a timer, multi-hour tapes were available, there was even a multi-load option to put 4 tapes in a stack and have it use them all while you were on vacation. The tape was automatically unthreaded once a certain threshold of FF/RW was hit--and in fact, many VHS decks had started to keep the tape threaded initially, because a 1 second pause to thread or unthread the tape each time you hit a button is damn annoying when you're skipping around trying to find a particular point.

        Video stores were about 50/50 Beta/VHS. There were other manufacturers selling Beta decks. And Beta still had far better video quality--maybe you couldn't see it on lousy US NTSC TVs, but on PAL systems it was very obvious.

        Yet VHS still won. So I don't buy the argument that alleged early deficiencies of Betamax account for its failure.
        • there was even a multi-load option to put 4 tapes in a stack and have it use them all while you were on vacation.

          Which reminds me of the old technology adoption curve.

          Early adopters want all kids of whiz bang features. Pragmatists are interested in far fewer features, and much more interested in cost. Late adopters are only interested in cost. You make the lion's share of your money with the pragmatists.

          It follows that if somebody gets to the pragmatists before you do with a good enough, cheap enough prod
        • Beta was released in Europe far it was released in the U.S. So in the U.S., VHS had quite a head-start feature-wise. I am looking at a gallery of Beta models right now, and the first Beta machine with even the two-hour record time AND a timer was not released until 1979, two years after VHS was in general release. The autoloader was meant to get around the fact they still didn't have a six-hour tape.

        • Video stores were about 50/50 Beta/VHS. There were other manufacturers selling Beta decks. And Beta still had far better video quality--maybe you couldn't see it on lousy US NTSC TVs, but on PAL systems it was very obvious.
          This is not true at all, and if you could see it, then you are imagining things. The difference was really negligible. Unless you are comparing the professional Beta format...
      • Top marks, although I'd claim that keeping the tape threaded was an advantage for Beta. It never wore out any of our Beta tapes at the time, and it made player operations much, much faster: You pressed play, and the tape played immediately. My first encounter with a VHS machine, I was wondering, "What the hell is taking the damned thing so long to play?" I thought it was broken.
      • Cheap, Fast, Good, pick two.

        I think you mean "Cheap. Fast. Reliable. Pick two." This was a mantra back in the heyday of Battlebots.

        But you're right, it fits just about any technology.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Why do we today use digi beta in the production environment if VHS was better? Beta evolved in the video production environment where VHS couldn't reach. Beta SP, Digi Beta, Beta-SX, HD-Cam. VHS digital is not bad but not as good.

        plus the rasons you explain why vhs excelled were because of sonys poor choices, not because Beta couldn't do it. It could have been done but sony tried to hold on to there baby to long and ended up smothering it in that market.
        • Betacam, didn't have a whole lot to do with Betamax, which was strictly a conusmer technology. They share a similar form factor, but everything on the backend for Betacam is professional-grade. Betamax was strictly consumer-grade stuff. Maybe a little better than VHS, video-quality-wise, but nothing earth-shattering.

          Don't confuse Betamax and Betacam.

      • by 7Prime ( 871679 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @06:49PM (#15030392) Homepage Journal

        I totally agree, although I don't particularly like your tone.

        BUT, Beta is totally superior for professional-level recording. I work for a local TV company. We're in a rural enough era, and small enough that we still use Beta as our standard (sadly). Now, it kills me that we haven't gone to a digital format already, but if I had to use VHS, I would shoot myself. Now, we're using BetaCam, and I'm not sure the exact differences (I think the tapes are essentially the same, though the players/recording format is higher quality), but the quality level between Beta and VHS is no laughing matter, especially in my field. It isn't a small difference of quality, it's a fairly huge one, actually. Especially for audio, Beta runs VHS totally up the ass. In fact, before Alesis came out with the ADAT digital standard, Betas were the highest quality magnetic tape audio format. Not only that, but Sony created converters to use the visual track as another two audio tracks, allowing for four-channel recording... again, the ADAT replaced that, but only much later. On the video end of things, Betas are much more robust, they don't degrade nearly as quickly with use, their control tracks hold up surprisingly well, and the video quality is greatly superior. The other day, I had to record a VHS tape for a client, and my coworker and I were in awe of just how shitty it looked compared to Beta.

        Now, that said, Beta was totally the wrong choice for consumers, for just the reasons you stated. Probably the biggest one was the time issue, since most feature films are between 90mins and 120mins, Beta was incredibly inconvenient. I can't believe Sony's stupidity on that one. If you're going to release a new form of media, at least make it sufficiently large enough to hold the standard amount of data. If CDs had been released that only played 30mins of audio, noone would have switched from LPs.

        • by pelrun ( 25021 )
          You're comparing apples to oranges.

          Betamax failed in the marketplace, but Betacam did very well in the professional market. Note that these are VERY different technologies. Betamax battled VHS and lost, but Betacam competed against MII (the professional version of VHS) and won.

          Sure, Betamax and Betacam may have the same sized tapes, but the video signals on them are very different.
        • My tone may have seemed harsh, but I just as much of a geek as the rest of us here, and it pisses me off Beta lost, given its higher video quality. If Sony did not have their head up their tush so far, they would have trounced VHS in the marketplace. Their mistakes were legion. They blew off RCAs requests for a longer recording time and a timer, and wanted to charge them more money than JVC did. (At the time, RCA was the largest TV company.) They screwed Sears by OEM'ing a Beta model to them, and then
      • >In summary, all Beta had going for it was video quality, but couldn't back it up with features worth a damn.

        Actually it could be argued that Beta didn't even have video quality going for it. In the initial market, the US, the quality of NTSC video is so poor that you could barely tell the difference between the initial Beta and VHS recordings. By the time Sony got their act together, the VHS side had also made some advances, and the quality difference didn't really exist any more. (In the PAL market
    • by Bagels ( 676159 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @01:35PM (#15027344)
      Actually, UMDs store video at the same resolution as DVDs - 720*480 - but the PSP's screen (with a resolution of 480*272) is incapable of displaying said resolution, and Sony's dragged their heels on releasing a stand-alone UMD player.
      • They must be compressing them way more, then. Probably sacrificing some quality in the audio department, too (stereo instead of 5.1, higher compression there, as well)

        UMD: Maximum (dual layer) capacity, 1.8 GB
        DVD: Single layer, 4.4GB; Dual layer, ~9GB

        The shortest (time-wise) and smallest (disc-space-wise) movies I've ever seen on DVD have still taken well over 3GB.

        Unless they're encoding in some codec that's better at compression for small file sizes (like Divx or XVid or H.232) we're talking some serious
    • The lesson here is to never pick a Sony backed video format.

  • I'm not surprised. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Slime-dogg ( 120473 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @12:45PM (#15026848) Journal
    Seriously. The PSP is niche at best, and the media price isn't all that cheap, I imagine. Add in the fact that the UMD flicks were rather pricey at retail, and you get a flop.

    I'm surprised that the studios actually did release movies on UMD. I'd have waited to see how that whole PSP market panned out first.
    • Yeah really. I don't think it will be long before stores stop stocking PSP games! I'm just not that impressed by it, nor do I even know anyone that has one.

      My son and all his friends all have Nintendo DS systems. That seems to be the rage now.
      • by radish ( 98371 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @01:34PM (#15027336) Homepage
        Well I don't know anyone with a DS, but I have a PSP and know at least 4 other people who do also. Isn't it fun how non-indicative of reality personal experiences can be? As it happens, according to a recent article on 1up, the PSP and DS are roughly level in the US market (not so in Japan however, the PSP is at about 50% of the DS installed base there).
    • It is great if you fly a lot. I know several people, including myself, that bought the PSP mainly to watch movies on when flying. Smaller than a laptop, easy to use. I bought several PSP movies when I was flying all the time. Unfortunately that's not a large enough market to sustain it as a format, and there is not any compelling reason to use them outside of traveling. Since I stopped traveling for work, I haven't bought a new one or touched the old ones.

      Of course if you are technical you can just
      • DMCA (Score:2, Insightful)

        by tepples ( 727027 )

        Of course if you are technical you can just rip and compress a DVD then shove it on a memory stick.

        And to get even more technical, ripping a CSS encrypted DVD to a PSP compatible format is a tort and crime in the United States, Australia, many countries of the European Union, and other developed countries that have implemented the WIPO Copyright Treaty.

        • Yes but technically, since I don't care if I am breaking the law by doing it, and the chances that I would be prosecuted for doing so (for personal use from my own collection, not downloading or distributing)are exactly nil, that really does not matter.
      • Why didn't you pay $90 (Australian) for a portable DVD player. I picked up one for train trips (over 2 hours per day). It is smaller than a laptop, 7 inch screen, plays DVD, VCD, mpeg4 (avi), MP3, CDDA. It has not region encoding (region free players are legal here). Most importantly, it can play my backups so I don't risk damaging the originals on the train. The only thing it doesn't do is play games.

        BTW, for comparison the PSP is still over $300 here and the DS can be purchased for $150.
        • I thought about that but the PSP had a few advantages for me. First, it's smaller and the battery life is a bit better. Second, GTA:LCS. Third, it's just a cool little device. I also played games on it when flying, just not as much as watching movies when I traveled. Now I do play games on it still, just not movies.
    • I like my PSP, it's great on a plane or when i'm stuck somewhere I don't want to be and do not wish to pay attention. (Ex.: Almost any social gathering I'm suckered in to). Features that are nice: great display, good sound, movie-video, kick-ass joystick, wireless Design decisions that detract from the product: UMD format, Expensive Games, no USB storage (WTF!?!) The system could have been good if Sony had let engineers design this product instead of marketing executives. Sell the thing with a hard drive
    • by fistfullast33l ( 819270 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @01:55PM (#15027548) Homepage Journal
      The PSP is niche at best

      I live in NYC and commute via subway every day to work. I am surprised by the number of people who actually play a PSP, watch movies, and even listen to the music (the lame headphones give them away - the left side is shorter than the right). I personally just use it to listen to music because I'm a little wary of holding it out in the open to be snatched away. I wouldn't say I've seen as many people with a DS or Gameboy. Lots of iPods, obviously, and many cell phone gamers and crackberry addicts. But the PSP definitely has a nicer chunk of representation than the other handhelds.

      As for the UMD movies, I'm not surprised myself either. I stayed away from them because they were more expensive than DVDs. I always thought that the best way to utilize the UMD movies is to rent, but Sony just didn't seem to get that. If Blockbuster had UMD movies to rent I'd be all over it for when I travel. Great idea, poor execution.

      • by powerlord ( 28156 )
        Ditto. I also work and live in NYC. I use my PSP to/from work to play games. I've also been able to start listening to music and watching video (transfered from TiVo and re-encoded/downloaded to PSP memory stick). The thing that held me back before was ambient noise. In the subway, the ambient noise in a train car can be pretty loud. I finally stumbled on the ER6 ear-buds from Etymotic []. Their great, I can listen to music on an iPod or PSP with the volume down at the half way mark (instead of having t
    • > Seriously. The PSP is niche at best

      There are over 10 million PSPs worldwide in the hands of consumers... hardly niche.
      • Niche, in that the platform itself is niche. There may be so many PSPs out there, but the actual usefulness of the UMD makes it niche. If I head over to Target/Walmart/etc, and look in the A/V department, how many inexpensive UMD players am I going to see? Odds are, I'll just find the PSP.

        Now, the regular old DVD has a plethora of cheap players. It also has a gigantic library of content available. UMD is a solution to a nonexistant problem. You can get a portable DVD player for around $60-80 USD.
      • Hardly accurate either. Sony's 10 million number doesn't refer to units sold, only units shipped.
  • never... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by advocate_one ( 662832 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @12:46PM (#15026857)
    well stone the crows... the format was effectively dead, in that it required you to have a PSP... whereas you could go out and purchase a portable DVD player that took your existing disks for a fraction of the cost of a PSP... the only people who were in the market for UMD then were those few PSP owners who were stupid, or else didn't have an existing DVD player and TV to watch them on...
    • by WidescreenFreak ( 830043 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @01:04PM (#15027059) Homepage Journal
      You beat me to it. Why anyone would consider the PSP to be a portable movie player is beyond me. Another cost for a different media, a typically Sony proprietary format, with a screen that's a lot smaller than most portable DVD players. For crying out loud, I recently bought a DVD player with a 7" 16:9 screen that could double as a portable video game display (I/O cables were included) for less than $100 -- and I don't have to purchase the same movie again on UMD!

      The fact that Sony actually expected people to double-dip for an inferior format is staggering. Of course, this comes from the same people who brought us Beta, MiniDisc, and music CD rootkits.
      • I agree with the main point of your post, but the part about MD and Beta seems off to me. Beta came out about the same time as VHS, so it was anyones guess which one would win, and MiniDisc was a pretty good replacement for tapes in walkmans until they where pushed out of the market by MP3-players.
        • I think there were issues with MiniDisc, but I do think it was an issue of marketing. They were marketed as a replacement for CDs, but they really sucked in that regard. However, they're fantastic as a replacement for tape -- easy to record to on the fly, smaller, digital, etc. But they were never sold as thus.
      • What's truly staggering to me was not Sony's expectation that they would, but the surprisingly large number of folks who actually did.

        Not large enough, of course, but still...
  • novelty purchase (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iocat ( 572367 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @12:47PM (#15026866) Homepage Journal
    I think studios saw sales spikes from novelty purchases ("Hey, my PSP can play movies! I should try one") and quickly flooded the market with the same kind of crap they were able to sell at the begining of the DVD market. But no one wants to rebuild their catalogs on UMD like they did on DVD. I think there really is a UMD movie market, but assuming it's a duplicate of the DVD market is probably a bad idea.
    • Excellent point, but the real issue is that the studios insist on not distributing media via networks.
      Of course noone wants another freakin physical format. Just let us download content finally. Like iTunes.
      but without DRM.
  • Useless (Score:2, Insightful)

    I have a PSP but own no movies. It's like the only people that would buy movies for PSP either fly on airplanes or are frequent passengers on long car trips. The percentage of those people is like .0002 of every PSP owner, I'd imagine. Even then, I don't think the battery life lasts more than 2 movies (?). It's practically useless. Bad, very bad, business decision on Sony and the movie industry's part.
    • It's like the only people that would buy movies for PSP either fly on airplanes or are frequent passengers on long car trips.

      A lot of people must live or work under conditions that preclude commuting on a bicycle (harsh winters, hip or knee arthritis, no affordable housing within 20 miles of the office, etc). Many of these people rely on a bus or train, and they can watch one act of a movie for each half hour trip.

    • The only way for a smart consumer to justify buying UMDs is if they're only gonna buy a few of them.

      'Cuz you can get a good portable DVD player that shares discs with the rest of your collection for the cost of about 5-10 of those UMD movies.
  • Big surprise.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShyGuy91284 ( 701108 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @12:48PM (#15026878)
    A proprietary format that is similar in price to a DVD but (I'm assuming) a fraction of the resolution is failing. Mean while, you can purchase the full resolution DVD, Buy a Memory Stick (which aren't terribly priced now as I rexcall), and convert the movie to a PSP format and put it on the stick. I for one am not surprised. With the push for GPU companies to support hardware encoding, the conversion time may eventually not even be a problem for those that do go this route.
    • A proprietary format that is similar in price to a DVD but (I'm assuming) a fraction of the resolution is failing.

      Not to mention your other (very good) options:

      1. Netflix as a source is great, and convertible as you mentioned, to PSP format.
      2. is very popular these days for someone who doesn't mind a few minutes searching...conversion is easy also
      3. Video podcasting and iTMS downloads are quite usable, and although the screen and quality is smaller, it's much easier than converting DVD/download
  • Nobody's buying? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @12:49PM (#15026884)
    Nobody's buying them? But I thought Sony said that they'd sold 8 million UMD movie discs, [] and that they couldn't even keep up with demand. And that was over six months ago. Are you saying that they weren't being honest?!?
  • by Lave ( 958216 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @12:50PM (#15026904)
    I hear stories like this all the time, and from my friends with PSP's they say the same things (hmmm, anecdotal), but when I go into any GAME/Virgin/HMV etc the PSP UMD section outstrips the entire DS section. A console with comparable success*. This was particularly annoying when I was walking to every shop in town desperate for a Nintedogs Mulitpack, which had sold out everywhere.

    It makes me wonder how much Sony (and now MS with the 360) are paying to make their brands look popular.

    And I don't think it's untrue when I say that a sizeable amount of the hate for Nintendo comes from the way these shops are set up.

    * Most evidence suggests the DS far outstrips the PSP in sales, but I avoided saying that because that's not the point I'm trying to make.

    • by mcc ( 14761 )
      This is the thing fascinating me about this news: Even Wal-Mart, every time I've gone in there in the last year or so, is pushing UMD movies above the DS games. I've been to Wal-Marts in a few areas and all of them have had the UMD movies right up front and clearly visible in a big flashy display, while the DS games are just kind of unceremoniously stuffed at the back of the aisle.

      This always disheartens me a little, and my response is usually just "Huh. Well, the PSP may be trailing the DS in total market []
      • This always disheartens me a little, and my response is usually just "Huh. Well, the PSP may be trailing the DS in total market share and trailing the GBA in day-to-day sales, and it may have a game library roughly as vibrant as the Jaguar, but I guess those UMD sales must be really popular. After all, if they weren't popular, why else would Wal-Mart be giving then so much well-placed shelf space?"

        The obvious guess would be that Sony is paying for shelf space. It's a common arrangement in retail.
      • Probably the last option (something going on behind the scenes.) My understanding is that many stores (Wal-Mart included) actually sell the best shelf space to the highest bidder. Why is the Wolf brand chili being displayed prominantly next to the hot dogs when the rest of the chili is eight aisles down? Because the company that makes Wolf brand chili paid Wal-Mart a lot of money.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is a preview of HD-DVD and Blu-Ray for movies.
    Normal people will not bother for a high-def, high-priced, super-DRM'd version of a movie that is available on regular DVD.

    I predict it will sell like bonkers for backup media, though.
    • The trick here is that both blu-ray and hd-dvd have demonstrated technologies that allow for a disc to be a blu-ray disc AND a dvd disc, or an hd-dvd disc AND a normal dvd disc. The idea is that both formats are able to support the inclusion of a normal-DVD layer alongside the next-gen-dvd one, such that the next-gen-dvd player will see the next-gen layer and a normal dvd player just sees the normal-dvd layer and thinks it's playing a normal DVD.

      This seems like the only hope either of these formats have, t
      • While forward compatibility might well get the Blu-Ray / HD-DVD on the shelves, if there is no additional content over regular DVD, then people will lose interest (particularly if they are more expensive than DVD.

        While many feature films either come packed to the gills with extra features, they are not always that worthwhile. I mean, once you've seen the trailer, is anyone other than a completist bothered about the "slightly different trailer"? I reckon that most BR/HD will end up left blank, but one or
  • by vslashg ( 209560 ) * on Thursday March 30, 2006 @12:59PM (#15027005)
    And they had such a good track record going into this too, what with the MiniDisc, MicroMV and its predecessor Digital 8, BetaMax...

    UMD was invented by a can't-miss tech company and supplied the market of people who wanted a second full-price, lower-resoultion copy of hit movies for their myriad of UMD players. So, you know, I'm shocked.
    • They also created the 3 1/2" floppy diskette, which (thanks to AOL) was my primary medium of cheap storage for several years. Sony working with Philips developed the CD standard and that really took off.

      /me twiddles his Sony eMarker [] nonchalantly

  • I was pretty sure from the moment I heard about the UMD movies that they wouldn't be likely to succeed. I was 100% sure after I found out that sony pointed the gun at their feet, and gave consumers the bullet when they provided the tool to convert movies to watch them off the memory stick. Hmm.. Free vs cha-ching? Then there's the battery power issue. Flash memory takes a fraction of the power that a spinning motor does.

    It's still a cool machine. I'd buy one if they opened it up for indie development (

    • I'd even consider it for multiplayer if the thing would charge (or even just run off the A/C adaptor) with bluetooth enabled.

      PSP doesn't have bluetooth. It does have wifi though, which you can (unsurprisingly) use while charging.
      • My bad, wifi. You can use it while charging, but it drains the battery even when the charger is plugged in. You even get a warning on screen warning you that it drains the battery. Pretty sick.
        • Wow - you're right - I didn't know this. A quick read of the PSP manual states that you can't charge while the WLAN is in use. Weird. Oh well, you learn something new every day :)
  • by Evanrude ( 21624 ) <david@fattyc o . o rg> on Thursday March 30, 2006 @01:06PM (#15027076) Homepage Journal
    The problem with the UMD adoption has been the freaking price! I am not going to pay $20-$30 for a UMD movie when I can pay $15 for the DVD and rip it to my memory stick.
    The approach they should have taken would be to bunlde the UMD with the DVD for an extra $5. When you buy the movie, you have paid for the rights to view it privately. The UMD is just another piece of $5 media.

    Oh well, I'll just keep doing what I'm doing.
    • you realize that by doing this you're an EVIL PIRATE! HARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR MATEYYYYSSS...

      Sony Ninjas will soon be coming over to your house to chop you in half for attacking their precious flawed business model.
  • Really, who didn't see this coming? Movies that required a $300 device to play and were lower resolution than DVDs? Sony did not push the format any further. They didn't make cheaper players for the UMDs to make them an alternative mobile option to larger, and easier to scratch, DVDs. They also, of course, didn't license the technology to anyone else to expand the market. What do they say about people that repeatedly do the same thing but expect different results each time?
  • Surprise, Surprise (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Digital Vomit ( 891734 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @01:13PM (#15027142) Homepage Journal
    Honestly, who didn't see this coming? PSP UMD had all the earmarks of a failure waiting to happen: overpriced, proprietary, underpowered (battery-wise), tiny screen.

    Here's what could've made the PSP *the* device to own: the ability to burn your own UMDs with photos or videos or whatever without the need for any proprietary hardware or software. A disc-based, portable image/video sharing device -- properly marketed and with proper competition from other companies -- could have created a new "must have" device that would be almost as ubiquitous as cell phones.

    This mega-corps are gonna have to stop thinking about what they want (expensive, proprietary, restricted devices) and start thinking about what consumers want (afforable, open, and easy-to-use devices), or else I will continue to write angry rants!

    • by radish ( 98371 )
      Errr....this is about UMD movies, not the PSP. You can do everything you mention on a PSP now by using a memory stick instead of UMD. That's really the problem with UMD, I watch video on my PSP all the time but I do it from MS not UMD.

      The PSP itself really isn't a failure - go read the article on 1up the other day, they say that in the US it's essentially level with the DS in sales. That's not bad for a market newcomer.
      • Outside of the US, it's getting its clock cleaned by the DS. Both are getting their clocks cleaned by the different GBA models. What about iPod video vs. PSP? There's a comparison I'd like to see.
  • No Special Features (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Michael Spencer Jr. ( 39538 ) * <spam @ m s> on Thursday March 30, 2006 @01:17PM (#15027175) Homepage
    Blockbuster Video's UMD cases have slots for two UMDs for a reason, you know.

    If they would start including the same special features as found on DVDs, using two UMDs to do it if necessary, I would buy more UMD movies.
  • I found this story about 18 hours after watching the Battlestar Galactica miniseries on a PSP on a plane. So, there's at least one person watching movies on the PSP. Of course, I ripped it to a memory stick and didn't watch it from UMD (in fact, I've never watched a UMD movie).

    I'm really disappointed in Sony for their positioning of the PSP. It has so much more potential than as a vessel for movie sales. I take it with me whenever I travel and use it as my primary entertainment, Web, and email device (usi
    • What mail / web program do you use for your PSP?
      I've been hanging out for a decent one for a very long time - the ones that are rips of game browsers are nasty.

      It all depends on your FW version too - I am sticking to 1.5 just because I like the freedom of it - homebrew etc
  • So far Sony has demonstrated the amazing ability to pick the WRONG format every time - Beta, Mini-disc, memory stick, and now UMD. What's this say about the coming Blu-ray vs. HD battle? Seems to me Sony's biggest problem is not technology but internal conflicts within Sony and external channel conflict. Internally, the content producing divisions want the consumer electronics division to cripple hardware and load it up with all sorts of DRM. Externally, content providers are wary of handing a standard
    • 1 36 []

      "Universal Studios Home Entertainment has completely stopped producing UMD movies, according to executives who asked not to be identified by name. Said one high-ranking exec: "It's awful. Sales are near zilch. It's another Sony bomb -- like Blu-ray.""

      Would say a lot more if Universal were backing BD-ROM at all but having a real executive state an opinion is good.
      • would mean alot more if the source was actually given. the source could have been made up as far as any of us know. i mean, all journalists can be trusted to not make up quotes, right? especially coming from a source thats not direct competitor in next generation movie formats... yeah, right!

    • UMD isn't anything like Blu-ray.

      For one thing UMD wasn't licensed to any other manufacturers so the only device that can play a UMD movie is the PSP. This isn't a problem with Blu-ray.

      Second, UMD is a Sony only proprietary format. Blu-ray was developed by the Blu-ray Disc Association [] of which Sony is just one member. The last media format that was co-developed by Sony was a whopping success. You might have heard of it, it was the DVD (Sony was a founding member of the DVD Forum []).

      So as you can s
  • Sony just cannot seem to cut a break these days. I suppose when they officially pronounce UMD movies dead, they'll blame those darn pirates who have given people the idea that they should be able download movies or rip them from their own DVDs to play on anything they like. Darn pirates! Seriously, digital distribution is the big threat to physical media of any current format.

    Anyway, I suppose we should start seeing some fire sales of UMD movies to clear existing stock. Here's my own semi-lame attempt to ha []
  • by szembek ( 948327 )
    Uncles of Mass Destruction?
  • 1. Go buy all the UMD movies you can find 2. Shove them in the closet and leave them for 20 years 3. Sell them one at a time to rabid fanboys on E-Bay
  • by relyter ( 696205 )
    I was very excited when the PSP first came out because the premise of the UMD media was so great. I have become rather tired of scratched DVDs the refuse to play, and the premise of a smaller disk that includes a protective shield was quite attractive. I had hoped the sony would open the UMD so the consumers could use them not only for PSPs but also for data storage in general. I could see the UMD replacing compact disks and supplementing DVDs for data storage on a grand scale (they hold 1.8 gigs). If sony
  • Movies on micro screens just don't work, period.

    Few people can really dedicate 90+ minutes to watch a full length movie. Sure, video podcasts, TV shows and music videos make sense, as people can watch them for 30 - 60 minutes without interruption, but movies are just too long for mobile formats.

    Plus, I find that these small screens like PSP and iPod don't refresh fast enough, so the movies are often blurry and give me a headache. I also get a neck ache trying to bend over my PSP to watch the Spider-man 2
  • ... Just not on UMD. I've been disappointed by the catalog, so I just convert my DVDs to MP4 PSP format, put them on my 2G stick and watch them anywhere I go. I prefer video files anyway, because they start in an instant, whereas UMD movies require spin-up and seeking. I think Sony should have made all media downloadable, including games (with DRM of course), put emphasis on larger flash storage (maybe 1G standard), and they could have saved a lot on the hardware costs. Plus, the units would have been m
  • It's astonishing how good Sony is at inventing cool new media formats and how bad they are at getting them adopted and becoming industry standards. Beta video tape. 8mm video tape. Magnetic audio disks. DAT. Memory stick. And now UMD.

    Of course, UMD is in the "what were they thinking" category. Not that it's a bad format. But (a) nobody wants to watch a movie on such a small screen and (b) even if they did, the DVD format is too locked in to allow a competing format with such a limited audience.

  • On the other hand, my local Wal-Mart still seems to be selling GBA Video carts.
  • 1) UMDs are only playable on the PSP, which is, by and large, still a $200 minimum investment. Contrastingly, DVD players and VCRs are available for a tenth of that.

    2) The PSP does not, natively, support output to a TV screen (I realize that there are 3rd party devices which allow this). Thus, if you are going to watch a UMD, you'll be doing it on a portable screen, and almost certainly watching it alone. Even the loneliest of nerds likes to watch movies with other lonely nerds.

    3) Playing a UMD movie on
  • If you take a look, every single failure can be tracked back to the same cause: Sony's obsession with kowtowing to Hollywood rather than the consumers. Beta went down in flames because Sony didn't want people to have a recording time long enough for a movie. "One hour is enough for a TV show." Beta video tape.
    8mm video tape. (By the time they did this, VHS owned their lunch.) Magnetic audio disks. (Low-capacity, hard to use, lousy recording time(again!) DAT.(OMG, perfect copies of the *sound* AARGH! Piracy!
  • ...But nobody ever listens to me.
  • by rAiNsT0rm ( 877553 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @08:28PM (#15031018) Homepage
    I mean, seriously. When Sony had to try so hard a couple months back to extoll the massive "success" of UMD in every media outlet known to man, that should have been your first clue. Then when they finally wised up and thought to include the UMD for free with a DVD it was too little too late. (many had been calling for this from day 1)

    UMD and Blu-Ray are both losers. They are expensive, offer no real benefit to the majority of consumers, and did I mention expensive... add in the low acceptance of the PSP in general and you have a big loss. I expect the Blu-ray to shake out the same way. FTR HDDVD most likely won't blow the doors down at your local retailer either.

    Consumers are speaking loud and clear, and have been for over a year with the piss poor game sales. It takes Joe sixpack a little longer to get fed up with mediocrity, but eventually they do. Welcome to that time Sony and MS... best of luck with $500+ systems and $60+games.

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll