Disney and its Buena Vista Home Entertainment Division have thrown theirconsiderable weight behind the Blu-ray standard for next-generation DVDs,escalating the battle between this format and HD DVDs.
Sony, Samsung, Dell and Hewlett-Packard are among the other companies thatare promoting Blu-ray. Warner Bros. Studios, Paramount Pictures, UniversalPictures and New Line Cinema announced almost two weeks ago that they wouldback Toshiba’s HD DVD.
“The most relevant fact for consumers right now is that there’s nocompatibility between the two,” Jeff Joseph, vice president of the ConsumerElectronics Association, told TechNewsWorld.
Disney has not ruled out the release of HD DVD format movies. It merelystated that it would release movies in the Blu-ray format as soon as playersare released in North America. That is expected to happen in early 2006.
Thestudios backing HD DVD have also signed non-exclusive arrangements. Thattechnology is expected to be available sooner because it requires fewermodifications to existing DVD technology. At this point, it is also cheaper than Blu-rayto produce.
Blu-ray discs can store more data, but HD DVD supporters say it moreefficiently writes data to discs.
The bottom line, Joseph said, is that incompatibility may define choices. “If you want to watch Disney movies, then you’ll choose Blu-ray,” he said.”If you have legacy equipment, you’ll choose what is compatible.”
Two Possible Paths
One of two things will happen, Joseph said: Either the market will shake out as it did with Beta and VHS in the 1980s, or the technology willmove toward interoperability so that it won’t matter which device a consumerowns. In the meantime, competition is likely to keep prices in check.
So which to buy?
“The key for consumers is research,” Joseph said. Factor in the moviesyou’re likely to watch, price and availability, and then make an informedchoice.
Joseph called the high-definition DVDs “the next great wave in the digitaltransition” and noted that another consideration for consumers will be thetypes of copy protections the two technology manufacturers choose to use.
Consumers want to be able to easily make “fair use” of the content theypurchase, such as burning a copy of a movie to watch on a portableDVD player in the car and keeping the original at home. Checking the type of copyprotection built into the technologies is another differentiator consumersshould investigate, Joseph said.