Beyond the Office [Burning Questions: HD-DVD-vs-Blu-ray Salvos - 10/25/2005]

Discussion in 'DVD Video' started by Ablang, Jul 16, 2006.

  1. Ablang

    Ablang Guest

    October 25th, 2005

    Burning Questions: HD-DVD-vs-Blu-ray Salvos

    Sr. Assoc. Ed. Melissa J. Perenson

    Those of us who follow the raging format war between backers of
    Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD have been quite busy keeping up with missives
    from both camps. It's also been entertaining to watch each group
    proclaim its technology's virtues and issue responses countering the
    other side's announcements.

    The format battle has reached new, vociferous heights with these
    latest salvos. So much propaganda is being tossed around, it's easy to
    lose sight of statements that have substance and roots in reality. It
    all reminds me of a classic M*A*S*H episode in which a bomb lands in
    the midst of the mobile hospital compound and spews out propaganda
    fliers. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of all this is how the
    dirty war of words is being played out in embarrassing excess on the
    Internet, across news and blog sites everywhere, thereby guaranteeing
    that the situation will come to the attention of--and anger--savvy
    consumers tired of corporate format battles.

    Here are my two cents on some of the more notable recent announcements
    from backers of the aspiring successors to today's DVD formats.

    Microsoft and Intel Join With HD-DVD

    Intel and Microsoft officially threw their collective weight behind
    HD-DVD by joining the HD-DVD Promotion Group:,aid,122733,tk,box,00.asp

    Until now, HD-DVD's big cheerleaders have been Toshiba, NEC, and the
    DVD Forum (the overseers of the current, wildly successful DVD format)
    in the technology community; and Warner Brothers on the content
    provider side.

    In a widely quoted joint statement about their decision to join the
    HD-DVD Promotion Group, Intel and Microsoft officials expressed doubt
    over Blu-ray's readiness for market. Among the points raised were
    whether Blu-ray backers will be able to manufacture a 50GB dual-layer
    disc for use by mass-market disc replicators, such as those that
    produce the slews of Hollywood DVDs sold today, and whether the
    Blu-ray format will support managed content--that is, copy-protected
    content transferred, or "ripped," from a disc to a server. The issue
    of managed content is important for the future of the home media

    The Blu-ray Disc Association quickly lashed back with its own press
    release. This was soon followed by formal comments by Dell and
    Hewlett-Packard, the PC goliaths backing Blu-ray Disc. Anyone have a
    score card to keep track?

    Although I find it interesting that both Intel and Microsoft feel that
    the HD-DVD format is more prepared than Blu-ray Disc for the
    challenges involved in the manufacture of products, when you boil
    these announcements down, they don't feel particularly weighty to me.

    The Microsoft announcement, in particular, was only of interest from
    two perspectives. First, it seems to increase the likelihood that a
    future version of the Xbox (presumably the new 360) will have a
    high-definition-capable optical drive, although Microsoft has not
    formally announced this. Second, the announcement means that since
    Microsoft will support HD-DVD peripherals in its Windows Vista
    operating system, due by the end of 2006, adding an HD-DVD drive to a
    PC running Vista will be easier than adding a Blu-ray Disc drive.
    Still, that's not a big issue for system builders, who'll get the
    drivers from Blu-ray Disc peripheral suppliers; and in theory it
    shouldn't greatly affect aftermarket drive providers, who'll just
    supply a driver disc with the drive. Even more to the point: This
    announcement doesn't preclude Microsoft from eventually adding Blu-ray
    Disc support to Windows Vista.

    Reading through the Microsoft and Intel statements on why they went
    with HD-DVD, I found an even more intriguing tidbit: vague references
    to Chinese hardware manufacturers signing on to HD-DVD. Why does this
    matter? Chinese manufacturers lead the way on pricing: If several, or
    even just one, of these companies have committed to producing HD-DVD
    players, we're likely to see the price of HD-DVD gear drop more
    rapidly than it might have otherwise. This could give HD-DVD a price
    edge in the market vis--vis Blu-ray.

    Paramount: Both Sides of the Fence

    Paramount Pictures' announcement that it will release its films on
    both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc media has more substance and potential
    for impact than did the Microsoft and Intel statement:,aid,122809,tk,box,00.asp

    First, some history: At the 2005 Consumer Electronics Show back in
    January, Paramount was among the studios at the splashy HD-DVD display
    gushing about their support for the format:,aid,119204,tk,box,00.asp

    At the time, the detail that often got lost in all the glitz was that
    none of those agreements was exclusive--nor, for that matter, was any
    of the announced studio support for Blu-ray Disc.

    Paramount's decision to back both formats marks a sea change: It's the
    first studio to formally state that it will cross format lines. I'm
    sure Paramount won't be the last studio to do so--and if both formats
    go to market, I pity us, the consumers who'll have to distinguish
    between similar-looking discs. At least Beta and VHS were different in
    size. I'll even add a bit of empathy for the retailers who'll have to
    field the angry returns when folks get home with the wrong-format
    version of "Mission: Impossible" or "Star Trek VI: The Final

    In hedging its bets and planning to offer high-definition movies in
    both formats, Paramount has done for software what Samsung has already
    done for hardware. Earlier this summer, a Samsung exec made remarks
    indicating that the company intended to produce a dual-format device
    if both formats go to market. Much was made of these remarks, which is
    surprising considering how little substance accompanied them: There
    was no word on a timeline for such a device, or on what it might cost.

    The First Hardware Unveiled

    But other companies are making more detailed announcements. At the
    recently concluded CEATAC Japan 2005, Toshiba finally formally
    announced its HD-DVD launch plans and showed a prototype of its first
    hardware player, dubbed the HD-XA1 for now. The company released few
    details on the slick-looking player. What was clear was that it will
    be available only in Japan at first; that it will ship there before
    the end of the year; and that it will likely cost close to the
    equivalent of $1000. The player will handle the 30GB dual-layer disc,
    a format endorsed by Toshiba early this summer; the format has been
    proposed to the DVD Forum but has not yet been incorporated into the
    official HD-DVD spec.

    I've also heard from two different Toshiba representatives that the
    first HD-DVD players will be released here in the U.S. in early 2006.
    One of the HD-DVD players Toshiba announced is a skinny (0.5 inch)
    portable notebook HD-DVD drive, which will ship later this year in
    Japan and early next year stateside. The drive--like the first HD-DVD
    PC drive already announced by NEC--will read (but not write to) HD-DVD
    media, as well as read and write DVDs and CDs.

    The Blu-ray offerings at CEATAC included a prototype Panasonic laptop
    with a DVD/Blu-ray Disc recorder (and player, naturally), as well as a
    Blu-ray recorder-equipped Sony VAIO-R desktop system.

    Read "Competing HD Formats Square Off" for our report on the show:,aid,122834,tk,box,00.asp

    As products get closer to coming to a store near you, the conflict
    between the camps is heating up. The optimist in me still holds out
    some faint hope that maybe, just maybe, a compromise will be reached.
    The realist plans to sit back and watch the fireworks--which are sure
    to be quite spectacular at, and in the run-up to, the 2006 Consumer
    Electronics Show this coming January.

    Anxious to keep up on the latest developments? Bookmark our Info
    Center on DVD Burners and Recorders:,ctrid,11,ic,DVDDrivesandRecorders,tk,box,00.asp

    Have a question or comment? Write to Melissa Perenson:
    burningquestions at

    Read Melissa J. Perenson's regularly published "Burning Questions"

    "You have enemies? Good! That means you've stood up for something in your life."
    -- Winston Churchill
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    Ablang, Jul 16, 2006
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