Monday, September 28, 2009

Learning Log VIII: Blu-Ray and "Doing Things Right"

While reading chapter 6 of Norman's DOET, "The Design Challenge", a thought popped into my head. Norman rightfully complains that too many computer programs make it impossible for you to forget about the computer and focus straight on the problem (Norman 179). The Blu-Ray DVD technology has taken this common issue and transferred it to movie-watching. Most people who buy a disc to watch their favorite flick just want to watch the movie, but often are encumbered by menu after menu before they can enjoy the film they bought. Blu-Ray DVDs simply start the film, with the menu button on a remote summoning a nice pop-under menu for those who wish to select a scene, watch extras, or change options:

(a screen capture of The Dark Knight on Blu-Ray, courtesy of

Of course, most people don't have Blu-Ray players (myself included). The extra cost is frustrating, especially if a household doesn't own an HDTV required to play these discs. Video gamers could purchase a Playstation 3, currently one of the best and cheapest Blu-Ray players, but what about those of us who already spent 400-or-so dollars on a video game console? This directly relates to another one of Norman's points.

In the section entitled "Forces that Work Against Evolutionary Design", Norman mentions a particularly disturbing aspect of modern design and consumerism. When a product is released with the seemingly flawless blend of features, great design, and usability, that cannot become a standard. Due to copyrights, patents, and business competition, every company is limited to releasing their own fairly unique products (143). This prevents effective ideas from becoming standard. For instance, people should have more of a choice in music players than the iPod or Zune, but Apple and Microsoft have taken hold of so many ideas that all competing products are notably inferior.

Let's jump back to Blu-Ray. Microsoft released an HD DVD player for their Xbox 360 video game console that served as the first application of high-definition movies for such a system. HD DVD is a discontinued format created by Toshiba. Sony followed suit with the Playstation 3, containing their own aforementioned Blu-Ray technology. Seeing as Toshiba's HD DVD was less popular and required a proprietary player to use for the 360, it lost the "format war" against Sony's Blu-Ray. Why won't Microsoft and Sony work on enabling Blu-Ray access for the Xbox 360? Why was there a war in the first place? An answer to the former question can be read below:

Like Norman mentions, this executive thinks he knows what users want, as a result of the designer shut out caused by "corporate bureaucracy" (158). Consumers should be allowed to have a choice. Some of us have no need for a PS3 but would love to watch HD movies. I, for one, purchased an HDTV just for my Xbox 360, so why not let me use it for other things as well?

"These people believe they know what customers want and feedback from the real world is limited by filters they impose." - anonymous designer (158)


  1. Great text! The tecnology evolution, nowadays, costs us a lot of patience and money... People doesn't know what we want, and that's shit, man...

  2. And just as a drop to my last coment, I live in Brazil and here a PS3 costs +/- R$1,500 what gives aprox. $700 dollars... A blu-ray disk costs R$100 aprox. $50 dollars... It's a f*** problem. Well, that's it...