September 29, 2005 2:47 PM PDT

DVD dispute burns at PC makers

After quietly heating up over recent months, the battle over next-generation DVD formats boiled over Thursday, as Dell and Hewlett-Packard assailed Intel and Microsoft, which have lined up in the opposite camp.

Earlier this week, Microsoft and Intel announced that they were backing the HD DVD format, saying its approach will spur easier home networking of movies and make it simpler to distribute hybrid discs containing both high-definition and traditional DVD movies. Dell and HP shot back Thursday, saying the world's largest software and processor makers were spreading "inaccurate" information. They also reiterated their backing for the rival Blu-ray format.

"From a PC end-user perspective, Blu-ray is a superior format," HP personal-storage unit general manager Maureen Weber said in a statement. Weber said Blu-ray offers anywhere from two-thirds to 150 percent more storage capacity, as well as higher transfer rates, and fits easily into slim notebooks. "The technical merits and consumer benefits of Blu-ray Disc make it the ideal solution for HP's customers."

Dell founder Michael Dell also lashed out at Microsoft and Intel during Wednesday's launch of a new premium PC line.

"Which version of Windows was the first to support DVD drives? The answer is none," Dell said, "because there is no DVD codec in Windows, because manufacturers have always provided their own codecs."

Both formats use blue lasers to pack more data onto a disc than is possible with today's DVDs, which are scanned by red lasers.

HD DVD has been supported by a Toshiba-led consortium, while Blu-ray has backing from Sony and the PC makers.

Microsoft countered the PC makers' claims, saying that although Blu-ray is promising some features, such as hybrid disc abilities, those features won't be ready as quickly as HD DVD will have them.

"Blu-ray has a promise there but they are several years away from delivering on the media," said Richard E. Doherty, a program manager in Microsoft's media and technology convergence unit. Doherty also said that Microsoft sees it as critical that all next-generation DVDs can be ripped onto a computer.

The spat is yet another example of the technology industry failing to line up behind a single standard. The format wars began in earnest with VHS vs. Beta in the video tape arena but can also be seen in more recent divides, including the DVD+R vs. DVD-R split. That DVD battle continued without a settlement, though many computers now have drives capable of recording to either type of media.

This particular battle is interesting in that it pits Intel and Microsoft against several of their largest customers. The battle has also divided the Hollywood studios.

Twentieth Century Fox, Vivendi Universal and Walt Disney have backed Blu-ray, while HD DVD's supporters include New Line Cinema, Paramount Home Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Entertainment and Warner Home Video.

Envisioneering analyst Richard Doherty (no relation to Microsoft's Doherty) said that although the content and technology providers appear willing to bicker, the stores that sell consumer DVD players and PCs want to see a single standard.

"What the retailers have told both groups is, 'Get your act together. We want one format,'" the analyst said.

Microsoft, meanwhile, said it would like to see an accord, with its representative acknowledging that a format war is likely to slow adoption of both DVD formats.

"We're still very hopeful that a war can be prevented," Microsoft's Doherty said. "If there is going to be a format war, we really want HD DVD to be the winner.

For its part, Microsoft plans to support both playing and copying of HD DVD discs with Windows Vista, the new version of the operating system due out next year. Doherty said Microsoft will support playback and streaming of existing standard DVDs, but it is still evaluating whether consumers will be able to rip such DVDs onto their hard drives.

Envisioneering's Doherty said there is still some hope that a peace agreement on next-generation DVDs will be reached, saying that as recently as earlier this month talks were held aimed at finding a compromise.

"There were dialogues," he said, "but no puff of white smoke (indicating a decision was reached)."

CNET News.com's Michael Singer contributed to this report.

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HD-DVD, PC company, Blu-ray, home entertainment, DVD

24 comments

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EVD is the king
I am suprise you didn't mention about the working of Enhanced Video Disc (EVD). EVD has been deployed and well know in Asia. I like to see it here in the US market soon..
Posted by mythmanq (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
next gen dvd not very important
It seems to me that by the time HDTV is widely adapted the internet speeds will have gotten fast enough to make on-demand the practical and preferred method for watching movies making this whole argument irrelevant.
Posted by mgarfein (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
duh
10 gig for a movie is going to be to big for a long time, on lower
quality i agree. Maybe DVD quality is going to be good enough
just like mp3 is now for music, who has super audio at home?
Posted by Peter Bonte (316 comments )
Link Flag
Why VOD will fail -- and why High-Def DVD might as well
Video on Demand isn't going to work, no matter what the bandwidth is like, if it's implemented the way the studios currently envision it. Why? Becuase people would rather spend $10-20 to buy a disk that they then own, even if they watch what's on it only once, than to spend $5 every single time they watch something. They might be willing to pay a monthly fee to subscribe to a rental service, like Netflix, but they'll still want an option to own some movies outright. Can you imagine how expensive VOD would be for a kid's movie that your kids watch 100 times, even if it's only 99 cents a pop?!?!

The real winner in the format wars between HDDVD and Blue Ray just might be traditional DVD, for much the same reason. Both of these camps have hinted that their format may require you to plug your player into a phone line or the Internet, so they can verify what you're watching and, potentially, charge you a pay-per-view fee. If that turns out to be true, then either format as a medium for movies will be dead -- people will sacrifice quality to buy a $10 DVD they can watch thousands of times rather than suffer recurring costs. Even if, by some miracle, the recurring costs would be lower than what they're paying for the disk (and since movie studios are looking for ways to INCREASE revenue, don't expect any pay-per-view options to be cheap), most people will still want to "own" movies.
Posted by E B (267 comments )
Link Flag
This is not actually correct
Michael Dell asked "Which version of Windows was the first to support DVD drives? The answer is none."
This is NOT true. You don't need a codec to support a DVD drive, and EVERY version of Windows supports DVD drives without drivers (because for the OS they are seen as normal IDE devices). He should be talking about DVD-Video! And, actually, if Microsoft had direct support for DVD-Video integrated in Windows XP or any other version, probably everyone would be crying that MS was taking its business away. I can only imagine what the European Commission and/or the US Justice Dpt. would do...
Posted by aemarques (162 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You sound like Microsoft
Always tring to confuse things.

"EVERY version of Windows supports DVD drives without drivers (because for the OS they are seen as normal IDE devices). He should be talking about DVD-Video!"

VIDEO is part of DVD (Digitial Video Disk) Tacking on Video at the end is redundant and doesn't make your point more valid than his. If it supports the two D's and not the V, it does not support DVD.
Someone should sell you a DVD player that does not decode video. And when you complain they can say It has a DVD drive, recognizes your CD's so you can play music with it.
Posted by nmcphers (261 comments )
Link Flag
You sound like Microsoft
Always tring to confuse things.

"EVERY version of Windows supports DVD drives without drivers (because for the OS they are seen as normal IDE devices). He should be talking about DVD-Video!"

VIDEO is part of DVD (Digitial Video Disk) Tacking on Video at the end is redundant and doesn't make your point more valid than his. If it supports the two D's and not the V, it does not support DVD.
Someone should sell you a DVD player that does not decode video. And when you complain they can say It has a DVD drive, recognizes your CD's so you can play music with it.
Posted by nmcphers (261 comments )
Link Flag
Experience from DVDs
I support HD-DVD at this point, for no other reason than the repeated headaches I've had trying to play DVD's on my PC and my MediaCenter. Basically, I'll support any format (or both), if the codec for playing video ships with my computer just like it ships with my entertainment-center equipment. I've had to purchase more than 1 DVD decoder for my systems... sometimes they work well, sometimes they don't. Some of these companies are charging nearly $100 for an MPG2 decoder! I can buy an entire DVD player for less than $100.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They didn't say anything about codecs...
Nothing will change with codec licensing. In
fact, both formats propose using new codecs with
new patent encumberances.

Currently, a regular DVD player has 4% of the
net sale price or $3 per player (whichever is
higher) to pay in license fees for the decoder
alone (not the hardware, mind you, just the
rights to implement decoder software).

Microsoft aims for a margin of 85% on Windows
sales. Let's say the OEM cost for XP
Professional is $100. $15 is the amortized cost
of XP Pro development and distribution. Adding
$4 to license a codec to play DVDs is increasing
the cost almost 30% -- assuming DVD6C decides
Windows is a DVD player and licenses it as such!

So, what's a poor convicted monopolist to do?
Well, for one, they got both the HD-DVD
standards committee and BluRay committee to
standardize on using codecs written by Microsoft
(WMV9 and VC1, respectively). So, Microsoft
COULD incorporate the decoder into the OS
package, but the incentive to do so is gone.
People are used to the way it currently is with
DVDs, and, frankly, MS stands to make much more
money by simply licensing the codecs to the DVD
hardware vendors and let them ship it with their
DVD drives to be used under Windows.

No, I wouldn't expect there to be any difference
with regard to your codec problem.
Posted by Gleeplewinky (289 comments )
Link Flag
uh no
You support it because MS does, everyone knows you don't say anything unless it has come from MS first.
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
Link Flag
blu-ray writers sooner that indicated
Microsoft should do some research before making this statement.
"Microsoft countered the PC makers' claims, saying that although Blu-ray is promising some features, such as hybrid disc abilities, those features won't be ready as quickly as HD DVD will have them".
BENQ has PW300 blu-ray writer production 2nd-quarter 2006.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
you should research more yourself
Maybe you should read the statement in full. They have some promised features that won't be released when blu-ray is initially released, but the HD DVD format will already have them at launch.
Posted by (2 comments )
Link Flag
It's not about storage
As a user I'm not concerned which of the next generation optical format will be able to store more data. I want a format that is compatible with my old DVDs (HD-DVD) and I don't want a player that forces me to stay plugged on the internet (Blu-ray). Sony is always trying us to follow its way and like other times it will loose this battle again. I've read other opinions and most of people won't welcome Blu-ray. I'm just tired of this format war.
Posted by Thor2005 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Format War
Personally, I'm tired of the format wars too. Just pick a standard and go with it. As for Blue-Ray, I don't really care to have my player connected to the internet and have the player send my viewing data to some marketer. Sorry, my player will not be connected to the internet. If it MUST be connected to the internet to work, then I will not buy it.

Furthermore, the player can be shutdown from the disk if the player's ID code is on the disk as an unauthorized player. You know what? The first time that happens, I garuntee that there will be some law suits about it. The media cartels are trying for a pay per play and this is step one of it.
Posted by Maelstorm (130 comments )
Link Flag
Holographic Storage will soon be out, finally !
According to recent demonstrations of their Holographic Disk Drives at selected conventions.

In-Phase, Optware, and Aprilis said their Colossal Storage capacities will soon be on the market.

Why buy a retread storage technology when you can get the latest gizmos.
Posted by grey_eminence (153 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Give me iso-linear chips!
Those storage things they use in Star Trek
Posted by nmcphers (261 comments )
Link Flag
Format wars older than VHS/Beta
Format wars are older than just the VHS/Beta fight. Edison made only cylinders for years as opposed to Victor Talking Machine's disks, and even the disk crowd initially had various speeds depending on who you bought your grammaphone from (of course Victor's 78 rpm eventually won out). Later, Columbia brought out 33 1/3 lp's, which RCA Victor countered with 45 disks. Thankfully, that format war resulted in the happy compromise of 33 1/3 lp albums and 45 singles.
Posted by jshale (37 comments )
Reply Link Flag
in the end, it's all about videogames...
the real dispute, and the reason why Microsoft supports HD-DVD is due to the console market. Sony will ship their PS3 with Blue-ray units, whereas Xbox 360 just has a standard CD driver. Now, if Microsoft was to upgrade the Xbox reader, which format do you think they will support? their main competitor's one? I doubt it.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I'll go with my instincts on this one
My instincts tell me if WinTel is strongly backing a particular format that format has to be bad for consumers. These guys have an unblemished record of scxrewing us. Anyone else read the story today about Intel QUIETLY distributing low end P4 chips with no further ID than a series number on the end? Talk about buyer beware!
Posted by Michael Grogan (308 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why would Microsoft back one standard over another?
It has nothing to do with capacity. It has to do with the ability to embed "applications" on to the disk for interactivity. HD DVD standardized on a derivative of Microsoft's .Net framework. Blu-Ray standardized on a variant of J2ME - a Java technology. Why would Microsoft ever support a competitor? Why would Microsoft ever walk away from the potential for licensing revenue when it is holding the keys to the only API that can be used to make the medium useful beyond pure storage capacity?
Posted by scottlewis101 (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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