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December 27, 2005

HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray and Beyond

There is quite the battle shaping up in the push to define the format for high-definition DVDs. This New York Times article talks about the issue (as well as the more general issue of high-definition DVDs vs. other distribution methods, such as on-demand). The problem, of course, is that having two formats confuses users, makes content publishers and hardware manufacturers have to hedge their bets, and delays adoption of the whole thing.

It's similar to the VHS vs. Beta battle for video-cassette recorders. That one was Sony (Beta) against a consumer electronics industry consortium (VHS); this one is shaking out as the consumer electronics industry (Blu-Ray) vs. the computer industry (HD-DVD). This is a quote from the article from someone at HP: "It all boils down to Microsoft and Sony wanting to dominate the connected home. It's a showdown between consumer electronics and personal computers over convergence."

This isn't a new fight; I wrote about the digital rights-management issues a while back. It's now hitting closer to home because it is becoming entangled in the game console wars: Sony's new Playstation 3 is supposed to support Blu-Ray, and although I know nothing about Xbox plans, I assume it is intended to eventually support HD-DVD (more general disclaimer: I know nothing about *any* of Microsoft's plans in this area; I'm just being a spectator here, no internal Microsoft knowledge was used in writing this).

It's not clear which is the tail and which is the dog (is Sony using the Playstation 3 to boost Blu-Ray, or using Blu-Ray to boost the Playstation 3?) but in any case the high-def format is turning into one front of an epic battle -- perhaps the epic battle, the final confrontation in the war over whether computers can win the living room -- and you can see Microsoft lining up its weapons: the HD-DVD format, DRM plans, Xbox, Media Center, etc. You could picture it expanding even more, pulling in mobile devices (which are already under Robbie Bach), and then beyond that to MSN, and external companies (Yahoo! probably lines up with the content people; what will Google do?). Should be quite interesting to watch this all play out.

Posted by AdamBa at December 27, 2005 09:39 PM

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The format that is going to win is the format that get cracked first.

Posted by: Ivan at January 2, 2006 09:59 AM