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Monday, July 12, 2010, 04:00 pm PT (07:00 pm ET)

Blu-ray chairman disagrees with Apple chief's assessment of format

The Blu-ray Disc Association chairman said this week that adoption of the high-definition disc format is on par with that of DVD, countering an argument from Apple chief executive Steve Jobs that the format is a fad whose days are numbered.

Italian Mac website sette B.it asked chairman Andy Parsons to respond to an alleged email from Jobs comparing the Blu-ray format with failed "high-quality audio formats" that were supposed to come after CDs. In reply, Parsons quoted statistics that put  Blu-ray adoption at the same market penetration rate as that of DVD after an equivalent time on the market.

Although he acknowledged the increasing importance of streaming and downloadable content, Parsons predicted that "Blu-ray Disc will continue to dominate for many years," citing several factors such as ease of use and durability.

Parsons remarks come in response to an unconfirmed email sent by Steve Jobs to one customer.

"Bluray is looking more and more like one of the high end audio formats that appeared as the successor to the CD - like it will be beaten by Internet downloadable formats," Jobs allegedly wrote. When pressed further, the Apple co-founder purportedly said that "free, instant gratification and convenience (likely in that order)" were the main reasons for the adoption of the MP3 format, rather than the lack of DRM. The email added that "the downloadable movie business is rapidly moving to free (Hulu) or rental (iTunes)" and predicted a "fast broad move to streamed free and rental content" of at least 720p.

A spokeswoman for the Blu-ray Disc Association pointed out that Apple had not confirmed the emails were actually sent from Jobs.  She also noted that Apple had recently denied that Jobs had authored emails that were posted online, presumably the emails about iPhone 4 reception issues that were published on a popular mobile blog several weeks ago.

Still, Jobs has gone on record at least once to discredit Blu-ray as a viable platform for his company's Mac computer line, calling it "a bag of hurt."

"I don’t mean from the consumer point of view," Jobs said at a company event back in October of 2008. "It’s great to watch movies, but the licensing is so complex. We’re waiting until things settle down, and waiting until Blu-ray takes off before we burden our customers with the cost of licensing."

A year later, Jobs and Co. reportedly gave Blu-ray another go during the development of the latest 21- and 27-inch iMacs. People familiar with the matter had said that the high-def drives were to ship in the high-end model and be available across the rest of the product family as build-to-order options.

But in the weeks leading up to the October launch of the new all-in-one desktops, all signs of Blu-ray were scrapped from evaluation units (and other Macs under development) due to lingering problems.

One issue, according to people familiar with the matter, was that Apple management — including Jobs — felt Blu-ray licensing fees were still too steep for the length of time they believed the technology would remain relevant in the market place. There were also reportedly both software and hardware related issues that would have demanded too much engineer effort to overcome.

Currently, none of Apple's hardware offerings support the Blu-ray format, although some of their software allows the burning of Blu-ray discs through an external drive.