Saturday, January 06, 2007
The war between Sony's Blu-ray high definition digital video disc it's rival, Toshiba's HD-DVD format is still raging with no end in sight. Both formats can record all of the data necessary for a full length movie in High Definition Television format, and were released almost simultaneously. Both take advantage of blue laser technology which can encode data on a disc more finely than the read lasers that are used for normal DVD's and CD's, enabling the disc to hold far more information than the older format despite being the same size. Although they use the same type of technology, subtle differences between the two keep them from being compatible so anyone who buys a player for one format won't be able to play the other format without buying the other player. This situation has caused a lot of frustration among consumers who are interested in having the full High Definition experience from a DVD, because it evokes memories of the format war between VHS and Betamax video cassettes back in the eighties. Much like the VHS/Betamax war, it's generally agreed that only one High Definition Digital Video Disc format will survive this war, so most consumers are putting off purchasing a player in either format while the whole situation pans out.
There have been several suggestions and technological innovations which could break the stalemate. For example, several weeks ago some entrepreneurs/inventors came up with a process that would enable both formats to be recorded onto the same surface of a disc. If this manufacturing process became the standard, then it wouldn't matter which type of High Definition Digital Video Disc player anyone bought because all of the discs would be compatible regardless. The problems with this actually happening include the fact that a lot of players in the electronic industry have a stake in one or the other format winning out, and the other problem is that having one disc carry both formats would require manufacturers to pay licensing fees thereby adding to the cost of the disc.
A newer possible solution may come from the creation of a new chip by NEC which would allow a single High Definition DVD player to play discs of both formats. The so called "hybrid" High Definition DVD player is probably the safest option for consumers, because it would allow consumers to go ahead and buy a player without worrying about which format ends up on top. This development might not necessarily break the stalemate, but it would allow the market to actually go somewhere one way or the other by allowing the average consumer to go ahead and purchase a player.
The trouble with a hybrid disc player is similar to that of a hybrid disc. Not only will the technology be expensive, but having to pay licensing fees to both Sony and Toshiba will add even more cost, making such a device out of reach of the average home entertainment enthusiast for quite a while.
In all, the High Definition Video Disc format war is likely to continue for quite some time, despite the possibility of relief from some technological marvel.