Maybe the ill-fated HD DVD format was just a placeholder until Microsoft got its Silverlight digital video platform up to snuff.
The company today announced a pilot launch of downloadable movies via Silverlight, starting with British retail giant Tesco this fall.
Microsoft said it will be waaay better than Blu-ray, promise. From the release:
“The new service, built on Microsoft Silverlight technology, will deliver a similar level of quality as consumers have come to expect from DVD and Blu-ray, but with advanced Web-based interactivity and a viewing experience that goes beyond other digital playback products in the marketplace.”
This tracks with Microsoft’s expectations of downloads eventually overtaking movie discs, which it’s been talking up since the HD DVD format it favored was quashed by Sony-backed Blu-ray in 2008.
Microsoft already offers high-def video downloads to the Xbox, and its video service is getting upgraded this fall.
The Silverlight service won’t require a special box. When people buy “certain home videos” from Tesco, they’ll be able to download digital copies to Windows PCs or Macs in a “‘virtual DVD’ experience, the release said.
“The digital copy versions will include a similar level of video quality, interactivity and bonus content available on the physical products. In addition, the digital copy versions will provide consumers with extra network-connected features such as auto-updated trailers, exclusive bonus content, movie viewing parties with online chat, related music offerings such as MP3s and ring tones, and networked games.”
Microsoft’s “virtual DVD” may also compete with the “iTunes Extras” that Apple announced today. Apple’s offering bonus features with “select movies” purchased from iTunes.
Not to mention Sony, which today announced a new networked Blu-ray player that bridges the gap, combining a high-def disc player and the ability to stream on-demand movies and TV shows from the Web. The $250 BDP-N640 going on sale next month also streams from YouTube, the Slacker music service and soon Netflix.
“Whether its full HD 1080p or streaming video and audio from the Internet, entertainment comes in so many flavors that consumers want choice,” Chris Fawcett, vice president of Sony Electronics’ home audio and video business, said in the release.
Apparently they’re getting it.