Blu-ray For Macs: A Bag of Hurt

Following Tuesday's press conference where Steve Jobs announced the new MacBooks, Jobs assembled the press corps and fielded a few questions. When the topic came around to why Apple still doesn't offer Blu-ray drives as an option for Mac, this was what he had to say:

"BluRay is a bag of hurt... The licensing of the technology is so complex that we’re just waiting until things settle down and waiting until BluRay really takes off in the marketplace before we burden our customers with the cost of the licensing and the drives."

 Credit: AMEX Digital
Many might argue that customers are already paying a premium for iMacs and MacBooks, so what's another couple of hundred dollars tacked onto to an already expensive, non-cost-competitive computer? So while Apple creates a vacuum, others will attempt to fill it. There are several Blu-ray drive options on the market for Macs, and the latest entrée comes from the folks over at AMEX Digital (yeah, we never heard of them either). AMEX Digital has just sent out a press release announcing a pair of new Blu-ray drives for the "New MacBook, Pro and Air"--the $289 BDR-2 Blu-ray Player and the $389 BDR-2 Blu-ray Recorder. As to how AMEX Digital envisions customers will use the drives, this is what it stated in the press release:

"Whether you're at the office or on the road with your computer, you can play and burn both Blu-ray and DVDs with the Blu-ray Super Multi Drive. It's perfect when you want to watch a Blu-ray and DVD movie, install software, create backup discs, and more."

Sounds great, yes? There is only one problem... Remember that "bag of hurt"? Currently, it is not possible to playback encrypted (copy-protected) Blu-ray movies on the Mac OS (nearly all commercial Blu-ray movies are encrypted). So unless you are running Boot Camp with a Windows XP or Vista partition, watching commercial Blu-ray movies on your Mac is out of the question. That said, the BDR-2 Blu-ray Player should be able to read Blu-ray data discs with no problem; and the BDR-2 Blu-ray Recorder should be able read and write Blu-ray data discs as well. Of course, if you want to actually burn Blu-ray data discs, you'll need to also invest in disc authoring software, such as Roxio's Toast 9.

Both drives are slim-form-factor, front-slot-loading, and come in either white or black. They are USB 2.0-based and can be powered either by the USB bus or via 5-Volt DC adapter. The BDR-2 Blu-ray Recorder compatible disc formats are as follows:

  • BD-RE/-R (SL) 2X Speed Reading
  • BD-RE/-R (DL) 1.6X Speed Reading
  • BD-ROM (SL / DL) 2X Speed Reading
  • Writes DVD+R DL and DVD-R DL discs at up to 4x speed
  • Writes DVD-R and DVD+R discs at up to 8x speed
  • Writes DVD-RW discs at up to 6x speed and DVD+RW discs at up to 8x speed
  • Reads DVDs at up to 8x speed
  • Writes CD-R discs at up to 24x speed
  • Writes CD-RW discs at up to 16x speed
  • Reads CDs at up to 24x speed

Both drives work with both the Mac OS and Windows XP and Vista. The minimum hardware requirements for the drives are: Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, 2GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce 8000 Series or ATI HD 2000 Series GPU.

We hope that folks who read the press release don't get all excited and run out to buy one of the drives expecting to be able to watch Blu-ray movies on their Mac. If so, they will be in for a bag of hurt. We suspect that the specific text in the press release about watching Blu-ray movies is a leftover from a previous iteration of the release when it might have been primarily focused on Windows systems.

Caveat emptor!

Tags:  Blu-ray, Mac, bag, Macs, blu, RT, AG, ray, AC