Talking tech since 2003

The battle between HD-DVD and Blu-ray has been around for a number of years and has made no significant progress until recently. If you look back in time, you will remember another similar situation such as this one, the battle between VHS and Betamax, which of course was won by VHS to be later replaced by the DVD. One two formats of discs (HD-DVD and Blu-ray) is set to replace the DVD format that we know today – the question is which one will win? It is a question which needs to be looked at thoroughly. There are a number of factors to look at; however, the most important factor in terms of what the ultimate outcome in this battle between formats will be what companies (movie studios, game makers, and distributors) support which format.

Before we look at the details between these two formats it is important to understand a little information as to what we will be evaluating. The word Blu-ray is derived from blue-violet laser and ray which are the technologies that make this disc possible. HD-DVD is short for High Definition DVD or Digital Video Disk.

As early as 1969 companies such as Philips were working on developing compact laserdiscs formats to play media. In 1979, Philips later teamed up with Sony and the popular CD was created. Then again, in the 1990s both companies were back at work together again on a new high-density disc called the Multimedia Compact Disc (MMCD), however, the format was essentially abandoned in favor of Toshiba’s competing Super Density Disc (SD), which had the vast majority of the support at the time by many companies, such as Hitachi, Panasonic, Mitsubishi, Pioneer, Thomson, and Time Warner. The two groups made a deal on what was to be the new format, the DVD. In the end, Toshiba was on top, while Sony and Philips were left off to the side. However, shortly after their bitter defeat, Sony and Philips started work on their next generation disc, which is known today as Blu-ray. Meanwhile, Toshiba started work on their next generation disc the HD-DVD. This situation put us back in the same predicament we were faced with during the VHS and Betamax battle; two companies who are looking to capitalize on a format they created at the expense of the consumer electronics industry.

The issue with Blu-ray discs is that they are more expensive, due to the fact the surface layer on the Blu-ray disc is thinner than that of a DVD, which requires it to be coated in a special coating to protect the data on the disc itself; however, this of course drives the cost up. According to Ryan Block of Engadget, “This thinner surface layer is what makes the discs cost more; because Blu-ray discs do not share the same surface layer thickness of DVDs, costly production facilities must be modified or replaced in order to produce the discs.” There is however, an added benefit to having the data closer to the surface. That being, allowing added capacity and much more potential data than what a HD-DVD could store. How much data are we talking about storing on these discs – well, the theoretical limit on a Blu-ray disc is 200GB, while the theoretical limit on a HD-DVD is only a mere 60GB in comparison. Aside from the storage factor, essentially Blu-ray and HD-DVD offer very similar features in terms of security and the codecs available, but which format has the most support behind it?

Blu-ray has definitely gained a substantial amount of support in comparison with HD-DVD. If you look at the list of movie studios supporting Blu-ray the number behind it are far larger than the number behind HD-DVD. HD-DVD only has the support of three major movie studios: Dreamworks, Paramount Pictures, and Universal Studios. All of the other major movie studios are supporting Blu-ray. Some of them include: 20th Century Fox, Hollywood Pictures, MGM Studios, Warner Bros., Walt Disney, and Sony Pictures Entertainment. When it comes to movie retail outlets, Blu-ray has HD-DVD beat again, Blockbuster and Netflix supported Blu-ray, meanwhile it was still unclear if anyone were going to support HD-DVD in that area.

Not only did Blu-ray have the support in the movie industry, but they also had the majority of the support in the consumer electronics industry. Major companies such as Apple, Dell, HP, LG, Panasonic, Pioneer, Sharp, and Samsung were all members of the board for the Blu-ray format. On the other hand, only four companies are listed as members of the board for HD-DVD: Memory-Tech, Sanyo, NEC, and Toshiba.

As recently as February of 2008, HD-DVD took what is believed to be its final blow, according to Rob Beschizza of Wired reported, “Toshiba is to put HD-DVD out of its misery … that it will cease manufacturing HD-DVD equipment.” This of course, was announced a day after Wal-Mart (America’s largest retailer) stated they will no longer be carrying HD-DVD equipment. It seems that Blu-ray has won the format wars and it will be the dominant format to replace DVD. How fast can we expect the change to take place? It is hard to say for sure, however, Blu-ray is slowly being implemented in computer systems and certain video game consoles such as Sony’s Playstation 3. I think it will be very interesting if HD-DVD somehow makes a recovery; however, the chances of that happening are most likely slim to none. It would appear based on the way everything has played out thus far Blu-ray is in fact the winner of the format war.

Works I used while doing research:

Block, Ryan. “Blu-Ray Vs HD DVD: State of the Division.” Engadget. 19 Sept. 2005. 19 Feb. 2008

Beschizza, Rob. “HD-DVD Death Imminent: Reuters, NHK.” Wired. 16 Feb. 2008. 19 Feb. 2008

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