The Blu-ray and HD DVD Format War

Over the past year that has been more and more talk about the new high- definition DVD discs that are available. With each new movie released to DVD, I have noticed that both the regular DVD and high-definition form is available. There is one problem with the new high definition format: there are two competing standards.

The two competing standards have set off talk about the Beta versus VHS many years ago. Many people are staying away from purchasing a high-definition DVD player until a winner is determined to avoid buying an obsolete format.

In this post I will provide an overview of the high-definition formats to shed some light on the difference between the two.

Note:

The high-definition DVD format war is over. Toshiba has thrown in the towel on HD DVD, which now makes Blu-ray the standard.

High-Definition

All televisions sold today are usually widescreen LCD or Plasma high definition. High-definition refers to any video system with higher resolution than standard-definition video. Most high-definition televisions display video commonly in 1280×720 (720p) or 1920×1080 (1080i or 1080p) resolution.

The problem with higher resolution is that it requires a lot more storage capacity to store the video. To account for the increase in storage capacity, several companies developed to competing standards that are meant as a successor to the DVD format. The formats are known as HD DVD and Blu-ray.

HD DVD

The HD DVD is designed to be the successor of the DVD and as such, uses the same underlying technology. The difference between the two is in the storage capacity. While a dual-layer DVD can store 8.5GB, a dual-layer HD DVD can store 30GB.

Toshiba and NEC joinly developed the HD DVD standard and soon became supported by the DVD Forum on November, 19 2003 as the successor to the DVD.

The first HD DVD player was released in Japan on March 31, 2006 and cost $934 US. Over the next 9 months, Toshiba reported that it had sold approximately 120,000 HD DVD players in the United States. At the same time Microsoft, which has adopted the HD DVD format as an optional upgrade kit for the Xbox 360, announced that it had sold 150,000 units of it’s upgrade kit.

Since Microsoft has supported the HD DVD format, it’s newest operating system, Windows Vista, supports that format.

Although it appears that the HD DVD format could be the choice for the world of high-definition, there is another competing format to consider, especially since it also had the backing of large corporations.

Blu-ray

The competing standard to the HD DVD format is called Blu-ray. It was developed by Sony back in the mid to late ‘90s and uses a blue laser to read the disc. Since the development of Blu-ray there has been a lot of talk among the big players in the industry, such as Sony, HP, Microsoft, to try an come up with a single standard for high definition. Talks eventually broke down, and in the end the various companies supported one of the two standards.

The first Blue-ray players entered the market in June 2006, although they were beat to the market by the HD DVD players by a few months. The first Blu-ray disc titles were released that same month with the first dual layer discs being release that same year in November.

The storage capacity of a Blu-ray disc is higher than a HD DVD disc. A dual-layer disc can hold 50GB of data as opposed to HD DVD’s 30GB. The Playstation 3, Sony’s gaming console, currently includes a Blu-ray drive so it can double as a player as well.

The Winner

Although it is too early to tell which format will merge victorious in the format war, it seems that the Blu-ray discs are outselling the HD DVD nearly 2 to 1. I am not in any hurry to recommend one format or the other as I will wait and see what happens.

I believe that as long as the players for both formats are backward-compatible with existing DVDs, then they both could have a chance to win this battle. The average consumer won’t care about the technology, or the storage capacity of a disc. They only care about playing their existing DVDs, as consumers have just finished buying those to replace their VHS tapes.

Maybe in the future the format war will be resolved the same way as the DVD-R and DVD+R format war: no winner, but one player/burner able to handle both formats.

In this battle, only time will tell who will win.

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