January 6, 2005 8:10 PM PST

Next-generation DVD formats rally support

LAS VEGAS--The battle over next-generation DVD formats heated up late Thursday as groups supporting two incompatible and competing technologies introduced new partners and revealed further details of what consumers and manufacturers can expect to see from them in the coming year.

Groups representing the Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD--both of which are blue laser formats aiming to become the technology to replace DVD--made their announcements at the Consumer Electronics Show here. Both formats offer storage capacities of about 10 times what the DVD format can hold. A DVD disc can store about 4.7GB of data on a single side, while Blu-ray Disc can hold up to 50GB and HD DVD can hold 30GB.

The Blu-ray Disc Association introduced game publishers Electronics Arts and Vivendi Universal Games, along with tech companies Sun Microsystems and Texas Instruments, as the newest members of their group. The companies will support the development, promotion and marketing of the Blu-ray Disc format.

Executive from the game publishers noted that the high storage capacity of Blu-ray Disc was important for them as they look to high-definition game development.

"Gaming is a multibillion-dollar business that is largely being ignored by HD DVD," said Richard Doherty, director of professional AV for Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory.

Blu-ray Disc supporters plan to include interactive features and game capabilities to discs that hold high-definition movies.

Blu-ray recorders and discs are expected in early 2006. Other companies in the Blu-ray Disc Association include Sony, Hewlett-Packard and Dell, among others.

Toshiba, NEC and Sanyo are among the leading electronics makers backing the HD DVD format.

Toshiba said at CES earlier this week that HD DVD recorders and notebook drives would be available in the fourth quarter.

HD DVD entertainment partners stood up to support the HD DVD format Thursday and announced movie and TV series titles that would be available on HD DVD discs by the end of the year. Paramount Home Entertainment, Warner Home Video, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, HBO and New Line Cinema said that about 100 titles, including the "Harry Potter" movies, the "Batman," "Superman," "E.R.," "The West Wing" and "The Sopranos" franchises, would be available on HD DVD discs.

"The real-world benefits (of HD DVD) are apparent and obvious," said Jim Cardwell, president of Warner Home Video. Cardwell added that rapid time-to-market and dependability were significant factors in choosing to go with HD DVD.

HD DVD is based on technology similar to that of DVD, which can reduce the time and cost of manufacturing discs and recorders, according to HD DVD supporters.

Studio supporters of Blu-ray Disc include Walt Disney Pictures and Television and the entertainment properties of Sony.

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Remember Beta vs. VHS?
Let's hope consumers remember the Beta vs. VHS mess. That left a large groups of consumers holding the bag with an orphan technology. It is certainly realistic to imagine either HD-DVD or BluRay losing out in a very similar scenario. I can see a few possibilities here (there may be more).

1) Consumers will adopt one or the other format based on early availability. This would have the least negative impact to consumers. The only way I can see this scenario occurring would be if one format was to market significantly earlier than the other or had significantly more product available earlier. Based on current projections, this doesn't appear likely.

2) The two formats diverge one into media (eg. games, data) and the other into video. Each format remains relevant but in different sectors.

3) Consumers remember the Beta/VHS fiasco and refuse to buy into either format. In this case both formats would flounder in obscurity because consumers would be unwilling to choose fearing that their format loses the battle.

4) Another subsequent superior format is introduced that eclipses both BluRay and HD-DVD relegating them both to obsolescence.

For me personally, I'm going with scenario (3). I'm not willing to adopt either. I have a DVD+R-DL that will do me just fine and I'm unwilling to support either BluRay or HD-DVD.

These are just my thoughts. Your milage may vary.
Posted by herkamur (115 comments )
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Consumers will have the last word.
In order to avoid a long time "war of formats", consumer organizations should be at front with manufacturers and supporters from both sides and state their oppinions and concerns. The consumer power here in the U.S. is great enough to help convince manufacturers which side of the balance they will choose, but I also think this is the time for the organizations involved to campaign in educating the consumers before both formats hit the U.S. market, in a way of avoiding confusion in them as well as giving a more selective option.
Posted by GMendez (1 comment )
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