Thursday, April 28, 2011
There are some new developments in the war between Toshiba's HD-DVD format and Sony's Blu-ray. Toshiba recently announced the release of a HD-DVD player capable of playing High Definition video in 1080p resolution, and Sony says that it will release a Blu-ray recorder in Japan by the end of the year. Both of these moves are meant to give each company an advantage in the competition to have their High Definition video disc format come out on top.
For anyone not familiar with this issue, Blu-ray and HD-DVD are both High Definition Television Digital Video Discs (DVD's) and are competing in the marketplace to become the dominant format. Both use blue laser technology to pack more data onto a disc than standard DVD technology- which uses a red laser- is capable of. The fact that they can deal with more data makes both formats up to the task of storing High Definition Video content, but there are some pretty major differences between them. For example each side of an HD-DVD can hold fifteen gigabytes of data or thirty gigabytes total, while a Blu-ray disc can hold twenty five gigabytes per side or fifty gigabytes total.
Looking at the difference in the capacities of the two formats, it should be a no brainer that the Blu-ray format should win out in this war, but it's not quite that simple. Blu-ray disc players tend to be more expensive than HD-DVD players, and each format has the backing of some pretty major players in the home entertainment electronics and computer industries. For example, Blu-ray has the support of a number electronics manufacturers including Sony, Dell, Apple, Philips, Sharp, HP, and many others. It also has the support of a number of movie studios including Paramount, Fox, Disney, MGM, and Warner The HD-DVD format has the support of only three studios- Warner, Universal, and Paramount. (Paramount and Warner are hedging their bets in this war by releasing titles in both formats.) The fact that so many more studios are backing Blu-ray is another factor that bodes well for it's triumph, but that gain is largely offset by the fact that Microsoft has is backing HD-DVD by providing support for the format through it's new Vista operating system and making the Xbox HD-DVD compatible.
The HD-DVD/Blu-Ray format war has had an adverse effect on the adoption of High Definition Television technology in general. Many consumers are waiting before buying a player in one format or another because they don't want to be stuck with the loser in a few years which is what happened to people who invested in Betamax video cassette technology over twenty years ago. As a result, backers of both technologies are angling to give their's a foothold, which is what we're seeing now.
The introduction Toshiba's new HD-DVD player that can handle 1080p will probably just make HD-DVD more competitive with Blu-ray, because Blu-ray players are already 1080p capable. At present though, this is something of a moot point because there isn't really anything to watch in 1080p resolution anyway. Sony's Blu-ray recorder could give the technology a leg up. After all, if you can record in a format, then you have something to watch in that format, which will make it more attractive.
What the industry really needs to do is create devices that are compatible with both HD-DVD and Blu-ray discs. The first one to do that will see immediately see huge profits and prevent any one format form monopolizing the High Definition Television DVD market.