Wednesday, February 07, 2007
There are a lot of similarities between Sony's Blu-ray disc and its rival HD-DVD format backed by Toshiba. Both can store far more data than the older DVD format, making both a good choice for publishing movie titles in the data intensive high definition television format. Both also rely on blue laser technology which can encode and read information more finely on a disc than the red laser technology used for the older DVD format and for CD's.
The two formats create a problem for consumers though because subtle difference between the two prevent a player that's designed for type of disc to read a disc in the other format. Conventional wisdom holds that only one of these two rival formats will survive in the end and consumers are afraid of investing in the wrong one.
This in turn creates a problem for Toshiba and Sony, because in order for either one to come out on top it needs to be a clear favorite for consumers. If consumers clearly prefer one format over the other, then more movie studios and software manufacturers will start releasing titles in that format. Once those titles are released, more consumer will be willing to invest in that format. It's a spiral that hasn't taken off so far.
Now with Broadcom's new chip, there's the possibility that consumers will be able to buy a set top box that can play both Toshiba's HD-DVD format as well as Sony's Blu-ray format. That way, when one format goes extinct, anyone who owns this device won't be left with a useless High Def DVD player and useless discs.
Such a device would face some problems both on its way to market and after it became available to consumers. Assuming that the chip really can resolve the technical issues of creating such a device, a dual high def DVD player will likely face stiff opposition from both Toshiba and Sony. Both companies will have a lot to gain if either of their proprietary formats comes out on top at the end of this war, and a dual high definition DVD player would likely prolong the format war and both companies would have to share the profits rather than raking in all of the royalties from the High Def DVD market.
Another potential problem would be the price. Philip Swann of TVPredictions.com points out that any device that can play both Blue-ray and HD-DVD discs will have to be a very complex and difficult machine to produce. He anticipates that they could cost over one thousand five hundred dollars. For one thousand five hundred dollars, you could buy a Blu-ray player and an HD-DVD player separately, which in the end, is a much easier way to hedge your bets than investing in an overly complex machine.