Despite being a member of the Blu-ray Disc Association since 2005, Apple has lagged on integrating Blu-ray into Macs, pinning the blame on licensing issues and not being coy about iTunes’ competition with physical media. But if Toshiba has come to the point that it feels it needs Blu-ray to be competitive, than those licensing issues must be more like a landfill full of hurt than just a bag for Apple to continue abstaining.
True, Toshiba plays in the traditional CE deck business, something Apple’s not going to do, and Blu-ray becomes much more interesting in the PC market as a data archiving medium offering greater capacity than rewriteable DVD. Media prices will need to come down considerably for that to happen.. But even until then, many Mac users would probably benefit from Apple supporting Blu-ray even if they had no interest in the latest high-definition discs from Hollywood.
This is because Mac OS X (even, unfortunately, Snow Leopard, as I’ve learned) cannot natively handle AVCHD, in particular the MPEG Transport Stream (.MTS) file format. This is a significant disappointment given that it is used by major camcorder manufacturers such as Sony, Canon and Panasonic as the way video is stored on hard drives and flash memory. It is also surprising given that Apple is touting how QuickTime X is built on such a modern foundation and the role that Apple and QuickTime had in the development of H.264. And, finally, it puts Apple at a competitive disadvantage versus Windows 7, which includes native file format support for MTS.
MTS has been a headache for many users frustrated by its lack of support. Just (Disclosure: this verb sponsored by Microsoft) Bing it and you’ll see that many of the references to it are pleas for file format converters. Frankly, I don’t know how someone without an Elgato Turbo H.264 deals with a modern camcorder on a Mac (but Elgato, please add support for AVCHD Lite)..
So what’s the bugaboo around MTS? It comes down to companies being unwilling to spend the dollars to license officially or use some of the open source options. While I’m not familiar with all the details, it seems that to support MTS you need to license at least some portion of the technology needed to play back Blu-ray. Ergo, if Apple supported Blu-ray, it would probably have the IP needed to support MTS natively. If rumors about future versions of iTunes supporting Blu-ray turn out to be false, any Mac users hoping to deal with files from their modern camcorders as naturally as they do JPEGs should hope for Blu-ray Macs.