October 1, 2005 11:40 AM PDT

FAQ: HD DVD vs. Blu-ray

Microsoft and Intel last week tried to swing the computing, consumer electronics and entertainment industry toward HD DVD in a format war to establish a higher-capacity successor to today's DVD.

It didn't work.

Dell and Hewlett-Packard, the top two business partners of Intel and Microsoft, instead loudly reaffirmed their support for the other side, Blu-ray Disc. The latest volleys illustrate the continuing difficulties of trying to establish a single standard that can be used for videos, video games, software distribution and backup data.

Did HD DVD win the battle now that Microsoft and Intel voted in its favor?
No. Blu-ray has a formidable list of allies, and instead of lining up behind HD DVD, they offered a swift rebuttal. "I think things are more cloudy now for HD DVD than they were five days before," said Envisioneering analyst Richard Doherty. "I think this is probably going to cause some reflection at Microsoft."

related story
DVD dispute burns at PC makers
Dell and HP assail Intel and Microsoft, which have lined up on the opposing side.

Who's on each side?
Toshiba leads the HD DVD consortium, which also includes consumer electronics manufacturers Sanyo and NEC. Entertainment companies on board are HBO, New Line Cinema, Paramount Home Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Entertainment and Warner Home Video.

Blu-ray's consumer electronics list is longer, with Sony, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Pioneer and LG Electronics. PC makers that support it are Dell, HP and Apple Computer. Also on board are video game maker Electronic Arts and entertainment companies Twentieth Century Fox, Vivendi Universal and Walt Disney.

What are HD DVD and Blu-Ray Disc?
Today's conventional DVDs can hold 4.7GB of information, but many want a higher-capacity successor to accommodate the larger data demands of high-definition video. HD DVD and Blu-ray both use blue lasers to read and write data; because blue has a shorter wavelength than the red used in DVD and CD lasers, information can be packed more densely on a disc and a single disc can hold more. Both HD DVD and Blu-ray drives are able to read current-generation DVDs.

It's no surprise why manufacturers want part of the industry. DVD player shipments, including next-generation models, will diminish from 113 million this year to 78 million in 2009, offset by a DVD recorder increase from 17 million this year to 74 million in 2009, said iSupply analyst Chris Crotty.

What are the differences between Blu-ray and HD DVD?
Each next-generation DVD format comes in single-layer and dual-layer formats. For HD DVD, that means capacities of 15GB and 30GB; for Blu-ray, it's 25GB and 50GB. Toshiba earlier expected HD DVD to arrive this year, but now the company plans to launch products worldwide in the first quarter of 2006. That's about the same time as the spring launch of Blu-ray, eliminating the early debut advantage. Blu-ray uses Sun Microsystems' Java software for built-in interactive features, whereas HD DVD uses a technology called iHD that Microsoft and Toshiba have worked on.

Why did Microsoft and Intel side with HD DVD?
The companies cited several reasons for their decision. They said the 50GB version of Blu-ray was "nowhere in sight," giving the 30GB HD DVD the capacity advantage for the time being. They also said HD DVD guarantees a feature they want, "managed copy," which lets a computer user copy a movie to a computer hard drive so it can be beamed around the house. The iHD software offers "greater interactivity," for example, letting a small screen with a movie director be overlaid onto the main video screen. HD DVD manufacturing is easier than for Blu-ray's BD-ROM, and its "hybrid disk" feature will mean an owner of today's DVD player will be able to buy a dual-format disk that can be played in tomorrow's HD DVD player.

What was Blu-ray's response?
In short, hogwash. They say the 50GB discs will arrive with no trouble in the spring, that HD DVD has no advantage in the managed copy area, and it has a hybrid disk technology as well. Neither side is winning the debate: "There are so many charges from both sides that it's very difficult to discern reality from propaganda," Crotty said.

What problems does the split cause?
Plenty. Consumers must gamble that investments in disc players and video collections are in a format that will prevail. And they'll be more cautious embracing digital entertainment technology: "You have to allow consumers to build their digital home over a very long time--a decade. You can't have this fiddle-faddle with standards," said Endpoint Technology Associates analyst Roger Kay.

Studios and video rental stores must either maintain duplicate inventory for the two formats or worry that one format might not have all the content consumers want. Electronics retailers have to explain the different standards. And the industry overall is faced with a more sluggish arrival of the next-generation technology at the same time other alternatives develop--including content that's downloaded directly or that's recorded onto hard drives built into set-top boxes and personal video records, Crotty said.

Can the two sides get together?
It's conceivable. Doherty observes that it took 18 months of struggle before two disputing factions--Super Disc and Multimedia CD--managed to compromise on a unified standard that became DVD, and the standard was the better for it. But at this late date, few see cooperation as likely. It's quite possible there could be no single victor, as happened with the rewritable disc standards DVD-RW and DVD+RW, both of which are used in the market. In that case, it's likely drive and player makers will build dual-format drives, a move Samsung has said it will make if no unification occurs.

130 comments

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Reality check please!
Until a certain set of preconditions exist, none of these new video and recording formats will be able to dominate the market! Let the chicken and egg debate continue ad infinitum. Ha! Ha!, for those who fail to learn from history, will continue to make the same mistakes!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Reality check please!
Until a certain set of preconditions exist, none of these new video and recording formats will be able to dominate the market! Let the chicken and egg debate continue ad infinitum. Ha! Ha!, for those who fail to learn from history, will continue to make the same mistakes!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Reply Link Flag
image quality
I keep reading about the next generation dvd format war, but one thing is never made explicitly clear to me in these articles. I know that blue ray can hold more data, but in practical terms, will there be any difference in image or sound quality for the average 2 hour movie between the two formats?
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yes. HDTV.
DVD has excellent resolution on standard-def TV.

But it's still only standard definition. Blu-Ray and HD DVD exist
to provide HDTV quality and beyond.

(However. On HDTVs with decent decoders, standard DVD looks
great, especially the SuperBit-type DVDs which maximize picture
quality at the expense of extras. I think the DVD industry is in
for a rude awakening. I think standard DVD is "good enough" for
most people with HDTVs; they're gonna have to discount heavily
to get people to buy into high-def DVD formats.

The big winners will be the computer folks, who get a data disc
with a staggering amount of storage space compared to today's
DVD-ROM/-/+R/-/+RW disc).
Posted by 203129769353146603573853850462 (97 comments )
Link Flag
image quality
I keep reading about the next generation dvd format war, but one thing is never made explicitly clear to me in these articles. I know that blue ray can hold more data, but in practical terms, will there be any difference in image or sound quality for the average 2 hour movie between the two formats?
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yes. HDTV.
DVD has excellent resolution on standard-def TV.

But it's still only standard definition. Blu-Ray and HD DVD exist
to provide HDTV quality and beyond.

(However. On HDTVs with decent decoders, standard DVD looks
great, especially the SuperBit-type DVDs which maximize picture
quality at the expense of extras. I think the DVD industry is in
for a rude awakening. I think standard DVD is "good enough" for
most people with HDTVs; they're gonna have to discount heavily
to get people to buy into high-def DVD formats.

The big winners will be the computer folks, who get a data disc
with a staggering amount of storage space compared to today's
DVD-ROM/-/+R/-/+RW disc).
Posted by 203129769353146603573853850462 (97 comments )
Link Flag
Reliability
I am sure that many of you IT pros out there, like me, have your own personal piles of dead CD/DVD drives and CD/DVD drinks coasters. I quit using CD-RWs and bought a thumb-drive - which has yet to fail on a single occasion. Since USB hard drives became available, my organisation no longer backs up anything to CD/DVD.
Why not apply the i-pod philosophy to HDTV films. You go to the video shop and get a film downloaded onto your portable hard drive. No more bits of plastic cluttering up the house... no more whirring drives as they try to make sense of a scratched CD/DVD...

Well, that my 2 cents.
Posted by Jerry Dawson (125 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I Like Your Idea, But . . .
... i'd rather see it be a device with no moving parts. heck, sell me a dvd quality movie on a compact flash card (or similar) that i can just plug into my "movie player", which would have a monster hard drive for copying the movie to play (and keeping it there, forever, in case i want to ever watch it again!). i'd be as happy as a pig in mud. :-)

in a couple years solid state media will have more than enough room for a typical movie in the highest definition practical for the home. then the mfg's will be in a heck of a hurry to move us to the "next big thing". so, i think i'll wait this format war out, with the only exception of buying a large device for doing the nightly back-up of my network. for that, there's only one thing that really matters: max capacity.

mark d.
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Link Flag
yeah but...
Hard drives fail and I sure don't want to stand around Blockbuster/Best Buy waiting for my movie to copy to my device.
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Link Flag
Reliability
I am sure that many of you IT pros out there, like me, have your own personal piles of dead CD/DVD drives and CD/DVD drinks coasters. I quit using CD-RWs and bought a thumb-drive - which has yet to fail on a single occasion. Since USB hard drives became available, my organisation no longer backs up anything to CD/DVD.
Why not apply the i-pod philosophy to HDTV films. You go to the video shop and get a film downloaded onto your portable hard drive. No more bits of plastic cluttering up the house... no more whirring drives as they try to make sense of a scratched CD/DVD...

Well, that my 2 cents.
Posted by Jerry Dawson (125 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I Like Your Idea, But . . .
... i'd rather see it be a device with no moving parts. heck, sell me a dvd quality movie on a compact flash card (or similar) that i can just plug into my "movie player", which would have a monster hard drive for copying the movie to play (and keeping it there, forever, in case i want to ever watch it again!). i'd be as happy as a pig in mud. :-)

in a couple years solid state media will have more than enough room for a typical movie in the highest definition practical for the home. then the mfg's will be in a heck of a hurry to move us to the "next big thing". so, i think i'll wait this format war out, with the only exception of buying a large device for doing the nightly back-up of my network. for that, there's only one thing that really matters: max capacity.

mark d.
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Link Flag
yeah but...
Hard drives fail and I sure don't want to stand around Blockbuster/Best Buy waiting for my movie to copy to my device.
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Link Flag
Bigger is Better
In America Anyway. Don't we dominate, we will just "Suck it up" and buy new DVD Drives and if INSOFT doesn't support it Guaranteed somebody will.
Posted by stgoehn (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Bigger is Better
In America Anyway. Don't we dominate, we will just "Suck it up" and buy new DVD Drives and if INSOFT doesn't support it Guaranteed somebody will.
Posted by stgoehn (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The real reason
<pre>Blu-ray uses Sun Microsystems' Java software for built-in interactive features, whereas HD DVD uses a technology called iHD that Microsoft and Toshiba have worked on.</pre>

That is most certainly the real reason why MS supports the other side. They hate Java.
Posted by t8 (3716 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The real reason
<pre>Blu-ray uses Sun Microsystems' Java software for built-in interactive features, whereas HD DVD uses a technology called iHD that Microsoft and Toshiba have worked on.</pre>

That is most certainly the real reason why MS supports the other side. They hate Java.
Posted by t8 (3716 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Like most consumers, I will wait
Having learned the VHS/Beta lesson, I believe that both formats and all of the companies are losers until there is one clear winner. As a consumer, I waited until the DVD rental/Circuit City DiVx mess was cleared up to buy into DVD's. I will wait again. In fact, I am waiting until almost everything is HD before I invest in HDTV. I am usually an early adopter, Sony Betamax 1975/VHS 1978, Microwave 1975, Personal Computers 1976, DirecTV in 1994, and TiVo early 2000. I believe the majority of consumers will wait it out until there is a clear winner before investing in the next DVD format, which will delay the financial payoff for these companies. It is really too bad, they needed to work together.
Posted by tbeckner (56 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Funny Thing
The funny thing is, that I really don't care who wins or what the best format is. There just needs to be one format before I will get interested in spending my money on a product. And the main reason for this is not the investment in hardware (which is minor), it is the investment in the software (which is major).
Posted by tbeckner (56 comments )
Link Flag
Like most consumers, I will wait
Having learned the VHS/Beta lesson, I believe that both formats and all of the companies are losers until there is one clear winner. As a consumer, I waited until the DVD rental/Circuit City DiVx mess was cleared up to buy into DVD's. I will wait again. In fact, I am waiting until almost everything is HD before I invest in HDTV. I am usually an early adopter, Sony Betamax 1975/VHS 1978, Microwave 1975, Personal Computers 1976, DirecTV in 1994, and TiVo early 2000. I believe the majority of consumers will wait it out until there is a clear winner before investing in the next DVD format, which will delay the financial payoff for these companies. It is really too bad, they needed to work together.
Posted by tbeckner (56 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Funny Thing
The funny thing is, that I really don't care who wins or what the best format is. There just needs to be one format before I will get interested in spending my money on a product. And the main reason for this is not the investment in hardware (which is minor), it is the investment in the software (which is major).
Posted by tbeckner (56 comments )
Link Flag
Learning from history
If there's one thing I've learned from history, it's the fact that "better" does not always win the war for consumer acceptance. Owners of betamax machines and Macintoshes will certainly agree with me. :)

I believe the article touched on the one factor that will decide the issue - which format will BLOCKBUSTER support? While they're a large corporation, they're not going to duplicate their efforts for very long. They'll pick the one format that they're getting the most revenue from, and abandon the other. When this happens, we'll know which one to buy. My guess is that this will happen by Christmas 2006.
Posted by Jim Harmon (329 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Learning from history
If there's one thing I've learned from history, it's the fact that "better" does not always win the war for consumer acceptance. Owners of betamax machines and Macintoshes will certainly agree with me. :)

I believe the article touched on the one factor that will decide the issue - which format will BLOCKBUSTER support? While they're a large corporation, they're not going to duplicate their efforts for very long. They'll pick the one format that they're getting the most revenue from, and abandon the other. When this happens, we'll know which one to buy. My guess is that this will happen by Christmas 2006.
Posted by Jim Harmon (329 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Surprisingly Good Argument for HD-DVD
I've been watching this recent development pretty closely since it
broke, and I have to say that the one thing that's been a
revelation is just how many advantages HD-DVD actually has.

Like most, I saw the quoted BluRay specs and figured "well,
that's that". However, BluRay doesn't even have a dual layer disk
that's even close to manufacturing yet - they're all lab examples.
HD-DVD does, so - if you know anything about the concerns of
these firms that will actually have to invest in making these disks
- that's a pretty huge advantage.

Which leads to the next problem with BluRay: Cost. Building
these factories (or, more acurately, retrofitting the old DVD
factories) is going to cost north of a billion bucks! The HD-DVD
manufacturing technology is almost exactly the same as DVD,
and the numbers I've seen for the same task or retrofitting are in
the tens of millions. I think that should be foremost on anyone's
mind, because that money has to be made back.

I mean, I wouldn't worry about it if this were still the 90s, since
back then optical disks were about the best thing going for the
price. But - as someone mentioned above - flash memory is
poised to outstrip even BluRay's wildest capacity dreams in
about 2-3 years, and be cost competitive-to-superior. So why
waste the money (as an investor OR a consumer) on a media
format that's probbaly going to be eclipsed inside of 5 years? If
you're going to gamble on optical media at all, it seems to make
more sense to go with the cheaper, more ready to go option.
That sure seem to be HD-DVD to me.

Durability? BluRay's get their capacity advantages (theoretical as
they may be) from using thinner substrates and coverings. If not
for some 'secret sauce' coating (and who knows who goodit will
actually be) they would be much more fragile than DVDs and
HD-DVDs. My DVDs already scratch too easy!

I also read that Toshiba even has a triple layer 45GB version in
the lab, which cuts BluRay's 'theoretical' 50GB dual version's
advantage even further.

I don't know - I may be missing something, but when compared
to it's direct competitor AND with the likely direction high
capacity flash is going, this sure seems to make BluRay the most
over-hyped technology of the decade.
Posted by bcsaxman (69 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Can You Provide Your Address at the Factory?
"... problem with BluRay: Cost. Building these factories (or, more acurately, retrofitting the old DVD factories) is going to cost north of a billion bucks! The HD-DVD ... numbers ... are in
the tens of millions."

Can you provide some authoritative links describing these costs that we can publicly confirm with the manufacturers? You start out saying "tens of millions" for an HD-DVD upgrade, and in a later post, it's "$90+ million" - sorry, but that's close enough to nine ~ ten figures for me, and they still haven't manufactured any production discs _in_quantity_, right? Time _is_ money, so delays _do_ cost more. Even if you're precisely right about the initial cost differential, no one seems to have any problems coming up with the three billion+ bucks needed to build/update a silicon IC fab these days (even in the Third World - skilled assembly and maintenance techs cost at least as much as the robotic hardware), and the depreciation over billions of discs over upwards of a decade isn't that big a difference per disc (certainly not anywhere near $5 - $10 each). The funny thing about retrofits/upgrades is that they never quite cost as little, or work as well, as advertised. Anyone ever try to upgrade a PC between versions of Microsloth OSes without wiping everything slick on the hard drive? How about keeping up with DLLs and drivers for aging hardware? What about trying to add anything to a vehicle made in the last few years (many auto electrical systems now prevent you from substituting any 12 volt accessories, because they manage the load and exchange data over the power lines and/or fiber optics)? Now scale that experience up to an optical disc manufacturing plant, where a mote of dust rubbing against anything is like a boulder - I'll believe it when I see it.

Flash memory is going to approach the same limits in photolithography that the microprocessor and other device manufacturing processes are getting close to bumping into (somewhere around the 0.1 ~ 0.01 micron level) within the next 5 ~ 10 years. Like the PC business in general, we're starting to approach the asymptote of the basement for prices. Microsloth has demonstrated plenty of experience getting away with low-end slop with the PC masses by tossing its billions around (which used to be the PC masses' billions, BTW). That may not hack it in the wider consumer space that has a much higher expectancy of reliability - and Microsloth's track record with Swiss cheese riddled PC and embedded (DVR, cable, phone)software does not bode well for whatever is going to be fielded on HD-DVD discs (and remember, once the firmware is in a standalone player, it's baked in, no chance to send out Service Packs 1 - 99). The alignment of more content owners with Blu-ray (not BluRay, BTW) tells me that they trust Microsloth about as far as they can throw them - most of whom have already been burned by previous Microsloth failures, if not outright illegal activity (remember that not-so-little abuse-of-monopoly-power conviction a few years ago?). I'll take Java, with its time-tested built-in security model, strong programming attibutes from embedded to server apps/services, broad cross-platform professional developer community, etc., over the descendents of COM/DOM, ActiveX, DLLs, virii/worms/Trojan Horses/kiddie scripters, etc., any day.

Upper-limit capacity _does_ matter. Just ask any Betamax user, who couldn't make SLP-length recordings, how much they enjoyed the marginally higher quality of their format on the ultimately more-expensive media. If Blu-ray winds up dominating the market, I guarantee you they will have a significant cost advantage over HD-DVD in the long run. Of course, it's still a chicken-and-egg race until then, and with no clear visual quality advantage among the formats, larger capacity at roughly the same per-disk cost - guess what Joe Six-pack is going to choose, assuming equally inept marketing? I've become convinced that the weak link in consumer electronics is the 20-Somethings working in the aisles (in video stores or retail box stores), whose general lack of knowledge about anything technical is astounding (there are rare exceptions, but they soon finish engineering school and move on to much better prospects - assuming their careers haven't already been outsourced overseas). I wouldn't discount the support of Dell (HP probably only matters in terms of retail shelf space) in this equation, either. Both companies, and their other hardware partners, are going to be pumping these things out into consumers' hands like hotcakes at a flood zone relief station (been there, done that). I do wonder if my mailbox will fill with one or the other choice from AOL (and probably both!). Maybe that will be the ultimate arbiter of this race, especially since Blockbuster and Hollywood Video are going to eventually go the way of the dodo, as cable, satellite and broadband continue flattening and contracting the surface of the planet, so they may not to even get to affect the outcome of this game.

The other thing to remember about the capacity upper limit argument is Bill Gates' prophetic wild misstatement about "640KB will be more than anyone will ever need". Fitting the text of the entire Encyclopedia Britannica on a single CD-ROM was supposed to be Nirvana, too. DVDs will seem as quaint in 10 ~ 15 years as 8-inch floppies do today (at least, being a volunteer at the Computer History Museum, I can still read those, if I need to!). 30 GBs won't even back up the average laptop computer today (not that there's more than that worth backing up, once you eliminate the Microsloth bloatware - hmmm, another reason they want you to buy more, smaller-capacity disks?). 100 GBs so I can take everything on my TiVo with me? Now, you're talking. There will never be enough capacity or bandwidth, and building for that higher upper limit in the future is a better investment than a more incremental (i.e., marginally less-risky, in the relatively short-term) approach.

Anyway, that's my buck-two-eighty's worth (two cents' worth, adjusted for inflation since date of "manufacture" ;) As Dennis Miller used to say, "But, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong."

All the Best,
Joe Blow
Posted by Joe Blow (175 comments )
Link Flag
Surprisingly Good Argument for HD-DVD
I've been watching this recent development pretty closely since it
broke, and I have to say that the one thing that's been a
revelation is just how many advantages HD-DVD actually has.

Like most, I saw the quoted BluRay specs and figured "well,
that's that". However, BluRay doesn't even have a dual layer disk
that's even close to manufacturing yet - they're all lab examples.
HD-DVD does, so - if you know anything about the concerns of
these firms that will actually have to invest in making these disks
- that's a pretty huge advantage.

Which leads to the next problem with BluRay: Cost. Building
these factories (or, more acurately, retrofitting the old DVD
factories) is going to cost north of a billion bucks! The HD-DVD
manufacturing technology is almost exactly the same as DVD,
and the numbers I've seen for the same task or retrofitting are in
the tens of millions. I think that should be foremost on anyone's
mind, because that money has to be made back.

I mean, I wouldn't worry about it if this were still the 90s, since
back then optical disks were about the best thing going for the
price. But - as someone mentioned above - flash memory is
poised to outstrip even BluRay's wildest capacity dreams in
about 2-3 years, and be cost competitive-to-superior. So why
waste the money (as an investor OR a consumer) on a media
format that's probbaly going to be eclipsed inside of 5 years? If
you're going to gamble on optical media at all, it seems to make
more sense to go with the cheaper, more ready to go option.
That sure seem to be HD-DVD to me.

Durability? BluRay's get their capacity advantages (theoretical as
they may be) from using thinner substrates and coverings. If not
for some 'secret sauce' coating (and who knows who goodit will
actually be) they would be much more fragile than DVDs and
HD-DVDs. My DVDs already scratch too easy!

I also read that Toshiba even has a triple layer 45GB version in
the lab, which cuts BluRay's 'theoretical' 50GB dual version's
advantage even further.

I don't know - I may be missing something, but when compared
to it's direct competitor AND with the likely direction high
capacity flash is going, this sure seems to make BluRay the most
over-hyped technology of the decade.
Posted by bcsaxman (69 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Can You Provide Your Address at the Factory?
"... problem with BluRay: Cost. Building these factories (or, more acurately, retrofitting the old DVD factories) is going to cost north of a billion bucks! The HD-DVD ... numbers ... are in
the tens of millions."

Can you provide some authoritative links describing these costs that we can publicly confirm with the manufacturers? You start out saying "tens of millions" for an HD-DVD upgrade, and in a later post, it's "$90+ million" - sorry, but that's close enough to nine ~ ten figures for me, and they still haven't manufactured any production discs _in_quantity_, right? Time _is_ money, so delays _do_ cost more. Even if you're precisely right about the initial cost differential, no one seems to have any problems coming up with the three billion+ bucks needed to build/update a silicon IC fab these days (even in the Third World - skilled assembly and maintenance techs cost at least as much as the robotic hardware), and the depreciation over billions of discs over upwards of a decade isn't that big a difference per disc (certainly not anywhere near $5 - $10 each). The funny thing about retrofits/upgrades is that they never quite cost as little, or work as well, as advertised. Anyone ever try to upgrade a PC between versions of Microsloth OSes without wiping everything slick on the hard drive? How about keeping up with DLLs and drivers for aging hardware? What about trying to add anything to a vehicle made in the last few years (many auto electrical systems now prevent you from substituting any 12 volt accessories, because they manage the load and exchange data over the power lines and/or fiber optics)? Now scale that experience up to an optical disc manufacturing plant, where a mote of dust rubbing against anything is like a boulder - I'll believe it when I see it.

Flash memory is going to approach the same limits in photolithography that the microprocessor and other device manufacturing processes are getting close to bumping into (somewhere around the 0.1 ~ 0.01 micron level) within the next 5 ~ 10 years. Like the PC business in general, we're starting to approach the asymptote of the basement for prices. Microsloth has demonstrated plenty of experience getting away with low-end slop with the PC masses by tossing its billions around (which used to be the PC masses' billions, BTW). That may not hack it in the wider consumer space that has a much higher expectancy of reliability - and Microsloth's track record with Swiss cheese riddled PC and embedded (DVR, cable, phone)software does not bode well for whatever is going to be fielded on HD-DVD discs (and remember, once the firmware is in a standalone player, it's baked in, no chance to send out Service Packs 1 - 99). The alignment of more content owners with Blu-ray (not BluRay, BTW) tells me that they trust Microsloth about as far as they can throw them - most of whom have already been burned by previous Microsloth failures, if not outright illegal activity (remember that not-so-little abuse-of-monopoly-power conviction a few years ago?). I'll take Java, with its time-tested built-in security model, strong programming attibutes from embedded to server apps/services, broad cross-platform professional developer community, etc., over the descendents of COM/DOM, ActiveX, DLLs, virii/worms/Trojan Horses/kiddie scripters, etc., any day.

Upper-limit capacity _does_ matter. Just ask any Betamax user, who couldn't make SLP-length recordings, how much they enjoyed the marginally higher quality of their format on the ultimately more-expensive media. If Blu-ray winds up dominating the market, I guarantee you they will have a significant cost advantage over HD-DVD in the long run. Of course, it's still a chicken-and-egg race until then, and with no clear visual quality advantage among the formats, larger capacity at roughly the same per-disk cost - guess what Joe Six-pack is going to choose, assuming equally inept marketing? I've become convinced that the weak link in consumer electronics is the 20-Somethings working in the aisles (in video stores or retail box stores), whose general lack of knowledge about anything technical is astounding (there are rare exceptions, but they soon finish engineering school and move on to much better prospects - assuming their careers haven't already been outsourced overseas). I wouldn't discount the support of Dell (HP probably only matters in terms of retail shelf space) in this equation, either. Both companies, and their other hardware partners, are going to be pumping these things out into consumers' hands like hotcakes at a flood zone relief station (been there, done that). I do wonder if my mailbox will fill with one or the other choice from AOL (and probably both!). Maybe that will be the ultimate arbiter of this race, especially since Blockbuster and Hollywood Video are going to eventually go the way of the dodo, as cable, satellite and broadband continue flattening and contracting the surface of the planet, so they may not to even get to affect the outcome of this game.

The other thing to remember about the capacity upper limit argument is Bill Gates' prophetic wild misstatement about "640KB will be more than anyone will ever need". Fitting the text of the entire Encyclopedia Britannica on a single CD-ROM was supposed to be Nirvana, too. DVDs will seem as quaint in 10 ~ 15 years as 8-inch floppies do today (at least, being a volunteer at the Computer History Museum, I can still read those, if I need to!). 30 GBs won't even back up the average laptop computer today (not that there's more than that worth backing up, once you eliminate the Microsloth bloatware - hmmm, another reason they want you to buy more, smaller-capacity disks?). 100 GBs so I can take everything on my TiVo with me? Now, you're talking. There will never be enough capacity or bandwidth, and building for that higher upper limit in the future is a better investment than a more incremental (i.e., marginally less-risky, in the relatively short-term) approach.

Anyway, that's my buck-two-eighty's worth (two cents' worth, adjusted for inflation since date of "manufacture" ;) As Dennis Miller used to say, "But, that's just my opinion, I could be wrong."

All the Best,
Joe Blow
Posted by Joe Blow (175 comments )
Link Flag
Is there even a strong demand for next gen format?
While "Bigger is Better" does apply, and most people, companies etc will beable to benefit from more space on a single disc.

Is there really a demand for it?

When DVD's came out, it was jumping to a whole new type of technology for videos (well main stream anyways, laserdiscs ever really hit it big time)

The jump in quality was pretty noticable, as well as being able to save a lot of space.

HDTV quality video just doesnt seem that impressive to me, while i'm sure in years to come cost will come down considerably, it seems like a "nice" thing to have, but really normal DVD's - espically on high quality displays look damn good already.

Software has barely even begun to take advantage of normal DVD technology (how many software titles have you gotten that come on more then one CD, often 3-4+, but theires no DVD version, except perhaps a super deluxe edition that costs 30+ dollars more?

Having 30+ gigs on a single DVD would definately be nice for Entire Seasons of TV Programs, but really, this whole next generation of players doesnt excite me at all, factor in the potential obselecence of a format, and I have no desire to even purchase a player in the next few years.
Posted by Madrone (43 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Is there even a strong demand for next gen format?
While "Bigger is Better" does apply, and most people, companies etc will beable to benefit from more space on a single disc.

Is there really a demand for it?

When DVD's came out, it was jumping to a whole new type of technology for videos (well main stream anyways, laserdiscs ever really hit it big time)

The jump in quality was pretty noticable, as well as being able to save a lot of space.

HDTV quality video just doesnt seem that impressive to me, while i'm sure in years to come cost will come down considerably, it seems like a "nice" thing to have, but really normal DVD's - espically on high quality displays look damn good already.

Software has barely even begun to take advantage of normal DVD technology (how many software titles have you gotten that come on more then one CD, often 3-4+, but theires no DVD version, except perhaps a super deluxe edition that costs 30+ dollars more?

Having 30+ gigs on a single DVD would definately be nice for Entire Seasons of TV Programs, but really, this whole next generation of players doesnt excite me at all, factor in the potential obselecence of a format, and I have no desire to even purchase a player in the next few years.
Posted by Madrone (43 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Dominate? LOL
No you dont dominate. You usually choose inferior USA engineered solutions based on what your corrupt corporation sponsored politicians are told to vote for.

Miserable failures sposored by America or large USA companies include NTSC (PAL is better in almost every regard) DVD+R (Reinventing the wheel - hence DVD-R disks are still cheaper and more widely used) and CDMA2000 for mobile phones - GSM wiped the floor with it...
Posted by richto (895 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Misinterpretation of the most successful market
Every technolgy you mention is available as a *consumer option* within the U.S. What does this mean? It means that multiple people with multiple ideas can create businesses, generate income and jobs, and grow the overall industry. No single solution is perfect for everybody, and choice is what makes America great. I definitely prefer this market to 40%+ tax payments that are used by organiations like the EU to subsidize business and eliminate competition.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
Dominate? LOL
No you dont dominate. You usually choose inferior USA engineered solutions based on what your corrupt corporation sponsored politicians are told to vote for.

Miserable failures sposored by America or large USA companies include NTSC (PAL is better in almost every regard) DVD+R (Reinventing the wheel - hence DVD-R disks are still cheaper and more widely used) and CDMA2000 for mobile phones - GSM wiped the floor with it...
Posted by richto (895 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Misinterpretation of the most successful market
Every technolgy you mention is available as a *consumer option* within the U.S. What does this mean? It means that multiple people with multiple ideas can create businesses, generate income and jobs, and grow the overall industry. No single solution is perfect for everybody, and choice is what makes America great. I definitely prefer this market to 40%+ tax payments that are used by organiations like the EU to subsidize business and eliminate competition.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
Incorrect Assumptions
I too have been reading up on both technologies and I'm not sure that you've gotten a good, complete picture of what is happening in this industry.
First of HD-DVD did create a 3-layer disc that holds 45GB, but Blu-Ray already demonstrated a 4-layer disc that gets 100GB. In essence though, HD-DVD never claimed to have the advantage in this regard.
As far as "simplicity" in manufacturing goes, the advantage initially was for HD-DVD, but several delays have caused that advantage to disappear.
The main issue that is governing the decision of these companies has to do with the mode of protection. Microsoft, Sony, etc. I don't think even care whether one disc is 30GB or 50GB. What they care about is a) how easy is it for people to duplicate, b) what kind of new features can be included, c) performance in terms of throughput, d) cost of media and cost of hardware. Will HD movies do better in Blu-Ray or HD-DVD? I don't think anybody can answer that question. Even the proponents and developers of these technologies can't post specs that provide siginificant advantages. However, it seems to me that Microsoft and some Hollywood studios are intent on using their own proprietary technology and usage rights rather than having it developed using universal standards. That means that while HD-DVD may initially claim a cheaper media cost, they're fees for licensing the technology for each movie or HD-DVD content will be higher than that used for Blu-Ray.
As far as flash memory is concerned, there is certainly a market for that, but it isn't even close to being price competitive. Never mind that the vast majority of people want to own their media and not "subscribe" to it or leave its control in the hands of large corporations. That is an essential "value" component that has been largely missing from this debate. In any case, it looks like the market will decide one way or another...
Posted by Awesomebase (134 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"You talkin ta me ...?"
It looked like you were responding to what I wrote - apologies if
that's not the case - so I thought I'd respond.

"... HD-DVD did create a 3-layer disc that holds 45GB, but Blu-
Ray already demonstrated a 4-layer disc that gets 100GB. In
essence though, HD-DVD never claimed to have the advantage
in this regard."

This gets back to the lab version vs. pilot versions ready to
manufacture. Both of these are lab versions, but in the case of
BluRay they haven't gotten even theri dual layer disks past that
stage yet. Doesn't this raise some flags for a quadruple layer
disk seeing the light of day? It does for me. Besides, once you
get to the 40-50GB level, larger capacities really become
esoteric advantages, given what these disks will primarily be
used for (buying movies and home PC backups).

"As far as "simplicity" in manufacturing goes, the advantage
initially was for HD-DVD, but several delays have caused that
advantage to disappear."

No, it hasn't. Those numbers I mentioned are the ones that are
quoted NOW - delays or no delays. The start-up costs of the
technologies involved are not subject to time factors; one
(BluRay) simply costs more than the other (HD-DVD).

"The main issue that is governing the decision of these
companies has to do with the mode of protection. Microsoft,
Sony, etc. I don't think even care whether one disc is 30GB or
50GB. What they care about is a) how easy is it for people to
duplicate, b) what kind of new features can be included, c)
performance in terms of throughput, d) cost of media and cost
of hardware."

I think you're sort of right about capacity not really being the
driving issue for either side, but the protection technology is the
same for both (AAC). The difference is HD-DVD consortium will
allow their disks to e copied to HDs for video straeming
purposes, while BluRay group will not. Also, for all the
interactive features, M$ wants their iHD technology to win
(which is on HD-DVD), and BluRay group wants BD-Java. And of
course, whoever wins, the backers will get royalty payments on
every disk and player made - big time money, for simply signing
on a dotted line. "Throughput" - how fast data is written or read
to disks - is about the same for both, I think. And cost of media
and hardware will very clearly favor HD-DVD - as I said, those
numbers (over $1 billion for BluRay start-up vs about S90
million for HD-DVD, total, are what's out there now).

"Will HD movies do better in Blu-Ray or HD-DVD? I don't think
anybody can answer that question. Even the proponents and
developers of these technologies can't post specs that provide
siginificant advantages... it seems to me that Microsoft and [the]
studios are intent on using their own proprietary technology and
usage rights rather than having it developed using universal
standards."

I can - They both deliver exactly the same product; High Def
content. So there is no performance advantages for either in
terms of the images you actually see. The iHD vs BD-Java
contest is where it becomes more of an open question. Which
one will deliver all the 'extras' better than the other? But frankly,
how 'gee whiz' do the menus and easter eggs have to be?
Nevertheless, these are the only "proprietary" technologies at
stake. And once one is chosen - officially or by a drawn out
market battle - it will become the universal standard.

"That means that while HD-DVD may initially claim a cheaper
media cost, they're fees for licensing the technology for each
movie or HD-DVD content will be higher than that used for Blu-
Ray. As far as flash memory is concerned, there is certainly a
market for that, but it isn't even close to being price
competitive."

This is not true. Licensing costs are likely to be similar for iHD
and BD-Java (yes, it's Java, but it's Bluray Development group
Java so their will probably be a cost). But even if their is a
difference, it will be miniscule when compared to the costs of
actually adopting the technologies - converting the
manufacturing and mastering lines and so forth. And that's
precisely where HD-DVD has a commanding advantage.
Especially if you believe - as I do - that optical disks are on their
way out soon anyway. Flash memory prices are coming down
fast, with capacities in the 16GB range coming soon (according
to Samsung). These companies may have 5 years, max, to
recoup their investment before the format is displaced. Making
back $1 billion in that time frame is going to cost much more
(per disk and player) than doing the same for $90 million, and
will likely be greater than any costs related to just lisencing.

"Never mind that the vast majority of people want to own their
media and not "subscribe" to it or leave its control in the hands
of large corporations. That is an essential "value" component
that has been largely missing from this debate. In any case, it
looks like the market will decide one way or another..."

I'm not sure where you're going here - if anything, HD-DVD
consortium's letting content be copied to hard drives lets the
consumer have more control, not less. Yet I don't think optical
disks are where this very good issue you bring up (subscription
vs ownership) will be fought. Soon, every PS or PC-like device
will have hardware DRM built in, and when that becomes
ubiquitous THEN the s**t will be hitting the fan for all of us.

In the end, the market has a role to play, bit I'm not sure its the
best place to fight over standards. Consumers should be putting
their efforts towards finding the lowest cost/best quality
solution, based on the ability of companies to manufacture and
market a product based on a greed upon standard. The kind of
fight that's sizing up now is just going to cost us all more money
- in supporting two incompatible formats in essentially the
same, shrinking market.

That's my 2 bucks ~
Posted by bcsaxman (69 comments )
Link Flag
Incorrect Assumptions
I too have been reading up on both technologies and I'm not sure that you've gotten a good, complete picture of what is happening in this industry.
First of HD-DVD did create a 3-layer disc that holds 45GB, but Blu-Ray already demonstrated a 4-layer disc that gets 100GB. In essence though, HD-DVD never claimed to have the advantage in this regard.
As far as "simplicity" in manufacturing goes, the advantage initially was for HD-DVD, but several delays have caused that advantage to disappear.
The main issue that is governing the decision of these companies has to do with the mode of protection. Microsoft, Sony, etc. I don't think even care whether one disc is 30GB or 50GB. What they care about is a) how easy is it for people to duplicate, b) what kind of new features can be included, c) performance in terms of throughput, d) cost of media and cost of hardware. Will HD movies do better in Blu-Ray or HD-DVD? I don't think anybody can answer that question. Even the proponents and developers of these technologies can't post specs that provide siginificant advantages. However, it seems to me that Microsoft and some Hollywood studios are intent on using their own proprietary technology and usage rights rather than having it developed using universal standards. That means that while HD-DVD may initially claim a cheaper media cost, they're fees for licensing the technology for each movie or HD-DVD content will be higher than that used for Blu-Ray.
As far as flash memory is concerned, there is certainly a market for that, but it isn't even close to being price competitive. Never mind that the vast majority of people want to own their media and not "subscribe" to it or leave its control in the hands of large corporations. That is an essential "value" component that has been largely missing from this debate. In any case, it looks like the market will decide one way or another...
Posted by Awesomebase (134 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"You talkin ta me ...?"
It looked like you were responding to what I wrote - apologies if
that's not the case - so I thought I'd respond.

"... HD-DVD did create a 3-layer disc that holds 45GB, but Blu-
Ray already demonstrated a 4-layer disc that gets 100GB. In
essence though, HD-DVD never claimed to have the advantage
in this regard."

This gets back to the lab version vs. pilot versions ready to
manufacture. Both of these are lab versions, but in the case of
BluRay they haven't gotten even theri dual layer disks past that
stage yet. Doesn't this raise some flags for a quadruple layer
disk seeing the light of day? It does for me. Besides, once you
get to the 40-50GB level, larger capacities really become
esoteric advantages, given what these disks will primarily be
used for (buying movies and home PC backups).

"As far as "simplicity" in manufacturing goes, the advantage
initially was for HD-DVD, but several delays have caused that
advantage to disappear."

No, it hasn't. Those numbers I mentioned are the ones that are
quoted NOW - delays or no delays. The start-up costs of the
technologies involved are not subject to time factors; one
(BluRay) simply costs more than the other (HD-DVD).

"The main issue that is governing the decision of these
companies has to do with the mode of protection. Microsoft,
Sony, etc. I don't think even care whether one disc is 30GB or
50GB. What they care about is a) how easy is it for people to
duplicate, b) what kind of new features can be included, c)
performance in terms of throughput, d) cost of media and cost
of hardware."

I think you're sort of right about capacity not really being the
driving issue for either side, but the protection technology is the
same for both (AAC). The difference is HD-DVD consortium will
allow their disks to e copied to HDs for video straeming
purposes, while BluRay group will not. Also, for all the
interactive features, M$ wants their iHD technology to win
(which is on HD-DVD), and BluRay group wants BD-Java. And of
course, whoever wins, the backers will get royalty payments on
every disk and player made - big time money, for simply signing
on a dotted line. "Throughput" - how fast data is written or read
to disks - is about the same for both, I think. And cost of media
and hardware will very clearly favor HD-DVD - as I said, those
numbers (over $1 billion for BluRay start-up vs about S90
million for HD-DVD, total, are what's out there now).

"Will HD movies do better in Blu-Ray or HD-DVD? I don't think
anybody can answer that question. Even the proponents and
developers of these technologies can't post specs that provide
siginificant advantages... it seems to me that Microsoft and [the]
studios are intent on using their own proprietary technology and
usage rights rather than having it developed using universal
standards."

I can - They both deliver exactly the same product; High Def
content. So there is no performance advantages for either in
terms of the images you actually see. The iHD vs BD-Java
contest is where it becomes more of an open question. Which
one will deliver all the 'extras' better than the other? But frankly,
how 'gee whiz' do the menus and easter eggs have to be?
Nevertheless, these are the only "proprietary" technologies at
stake. And once one is chosen - officially or by a drawn out
market battle - it will become the universal standard.

"That means that while HD-DVD may initially claim a cheaper
media cost, they're fees for licensing the technology for each
movie or HD-DVD content will be higher than that used for Blu-
Ray. As far as flash memory is concerned, there is certainly a
market for that, but it isn't even close to being price
competitive."

This is not true. Licensing costs are likely to be similar for iHD
and BD-Java (yes, it's Java, but it's Bluray Development group
Java so their will probably be a cost). But even if their is a
difference, it will be miniscule when compared to the costs of
actually adopting the technologies - converting the
manufacturing and mastering lines and so forth. And that's
precisely where HD-DVD has a commanding advantage.
Especially if you believe - as I do - that optical disks are on their
way out soon anyway. Flash memory prices are coming down
fast, with capacities in the 16GB range coming soon (according
to Samsung). These companies may have 5 years, max, to
recoup their investment before the format is displaced. Making
back $1 billion in that time frame is going to cost much more
(per disk and player) than doing the same for $90 million, and
will likely be greater than any costs related to just lisencing.

"Never mind that the vast majority of people want to own their
media and not "subscribe" to it or leave its control in the hands
of large corporations. That is an essential "value" component
that has been largely missing from this debate. In any case, it
looks like the market will decide one way or another..."

I'm not sure where you're going here - if anything, HD-DVD
consortium's letting content be copied to hard drives lets the
consumer have more control, not less. Yet I don't think optical
disks are where this very good issue you bring up (subscription
vs ownership) will be fought. Soon, every PS or PC-like device
will have hardware DRM built in, and when that becomes
ubiquitous THEN the s**t will be hitting the fan for all of us.

In the end, the market has a role to play, bit I'm not sure its the
best place to fight over standards. Consumers should be putting
their efforts towards finding the lowest cost/best quality
solution, based on the ability of companies to manufacture and
market a product based on a greed upon standard. The kind of
fight that's sizing up now is just going to cost us all more money
- in supporting two incompatible formats in essentially the
same, shrinking market.

That's my 2 bucks ~
Posted by bcsaxman (69 comments )
Link Flag
Blu-Ray in PS3
One thing that has been missed is that the PS3 will be Blu-Ray.
While according to the specs on www.xbox.com the Xbox360 with have a 12x DVD-ROM.

So, by the end of next year there will be more Blu-Ray enabled devices in the living room than HD-DVD devices by default.
Posted by ahickey (177 comments )
Reply Link Flag
HD-DVD Versus Blue Ray, a comparison to SACD versus DVD-A
I to in the past have been a Bleeding Edge consumer.

Hence, Beta, over VHS, early adoptor of MiniDisc, and the big one for me SACD versus DVD-A. I decided to jump on both SACD and DVD-A just because different studios supported different formats. Both Formats sound great to me, and I can't really tell the sonic advantages of either of the other.

But, in order to play both formats, I have a stand alone SACD and a stand alone DVD-A. The combo units were just to expensive. Now when I play these things for my friends they are astonished at the sound quality, but then say "I have never even heard of Super Audio or DVD audio"

I think this is where the HD-DVD/Blue Ray battle is going. Lets face it, there are still folks out there with VHS tape decks, who are really upset that Walmart and Blockbuster no longer carry new releases in VHS (this is forcing these folks into adoption of DVD by the way. But, Look at the number of combo DVD/VHS units at Costco or Sams, versus DVD players.

Like the earlier person stated, until Blockbuster and Netflix start supporting the formats no one will convert, or even know there is a new format/s to convert to. And lets face it, until you can get a 150 dollar unit which will play both formats the masses will not care about either format.

Robert
Posted by blasterdaddy (4 comments )
Link Flag
Blu-Ray in PS3
One thing that has been missed is that the PS3 will be Blu-Ray.
While according to the specs on www.xbox.com the Xbox360 with have a 12x DVD-ROM.

So, by the end of next year there will be more Blu-Ray enabled devices in the living room than HD-DVD devices by default.
Posted by ahickey (177 comments )
Reply Link Flag
HD-DVD Versus Blue Ray, a comparison to SACD versus DVD-A
I to in the past have been a Bleeding Edge consumer.

Hence, Beta, over VHS, early adoptor of MiniDisc, and the big one for me SACD versus DVD-A. I decided to jump on both SACD and DVD-A just because different studios supported different formats. Both Formats sound great to me, and I can't really tell the sonic advantages of either of the other.

But, in order to play both formats, I have a stand alone SACD and a stand alone DVD-A. The combo units were just to expensive. Now when I play these things for my friends they are astonished at the sound quality, but then say "I have never even heard of Super Audio or DVD audio"

I think this is where the HD-DVD/Blue Ray battle is going. Lets face it, there are still folks out there with VHS tape decks, who are really upset that Walmart and Blockbuster no longer carry new releases in VHS (this is forcing these folks into adoption of DVD by the way. But, Look at the number of combo DVD/VHS units at Costco or Sams, versus DVD players.

Like the earlier person stated, until Blockbuster and Netflix start supporting the formats no one will convert, or even know there is a new format/s to convert to. And lets face it, until you can get a 150 dollar unit which will play both formats the masses will not care about either format.

Robert
Posted by blasterdaddy (4 comments )
Link Flag
In the end: price will be victorious.
I would tender a bet that, in the end, consumers who buy DVD for the movies will vote with their pocket books.

I'm not going to pay $5 more for a DVD that is that is marginally better. I still want my movies less than $20. Studios will choose to squeeze more in less space, as compression technology improves.

For Data DVD's, Just let them fight it out and some bi-partisan company will come up with a dual writer just like it is now.
Posted by Chris from Kazoo (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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