Sunday, November 25, 2007
One of the most interesting new TV technologies to come out in quite a while is high definition DVD technology. This technology is basically able to put enough data on an optical disc the same size as a CD or a conventional DVD to render an entire full length movie- plus its bonus features- in high definition television.
The key packing that much data onto a single disc is the use of blue-violet lasers that have a significantly smaller wavelength then the red lasers that are used to encode data onto CD's and DVD's. Blue-violet lasers are used both to encode data onto high definition DVD's and read that data off of them.
Another fascinating aspect of high def DVD's is economic rather than technological. Right now there are two competing high def DVD formats. The first one was created by Toshiba and is called HD-DVD. The second format- which was introduced hot on the heals of HD-DVD- is called Blu-ray and was created by Sony. Both formats are pretty much equal in the picture quality that they can render with picture resolutions as high as 1080p, but there are a number of subtle differences that make HD-DVD players unable to read Blu-ray discs and Blu-ray players unable to read HD-DVD discs.
The incompatibility of HD-DVD and Blu-ray has prompted a format war between Sony and Toshiba, and the format war has been prolonged by the reluctance of consumers to invest in either of the two competing technologies. Basically a format war is a matter of propaganda and perception. Both Sony and Toshiba have to convince the general public that their format is superior to the other in some way. The advantage can be better value, better picture, better technology, or any number of combination of a variety of different things. The emphasis though is on making the general public believe that one format is a better choice than the other.
The public on the other hand, has been less than eager to embrace either format because of a fear of being left with the losing technology- which will then be obsolete- when the dust settles at the end of the format war. Because of this, the winner will largely be determined by one side convincing consumers as a whole that it has won. At that point consumers will be more willing to spend their money on that technology.
Further complicating this situation is the fact that a variety of other companies have aligned to back one format or another. For example, many movie studios back Blu-ray, a few back both Blu-ray and HD-DVD, and one backs HD-DVD exclusively. There are also a variety of computer makers and electronics companies backing one or the other- after all, this technology does have computer applications as well.
The alignment that a lot of these companies take on one side or the other has also created some interesting problems for consumers. For example, many computer manufacturers favor the Blu-ray format even though their computers run Microsoft operating systems and Microsoft is a backer of HD-DVD.
With all of these factors to look at, the high def DVD format war is an interesting situation and only time will tell how it all pans out.