September 29, 2005

Play Nice: Blu-Ray and HD DVD

OK, we once again see vendors jockeying to drive the de facto standard for the next generation of DVD technology. Now, that Intel and Microsoft have embraced the HD DVD standard, it would be so nice if at least the other computer vendors would agree, however Dell, HP, Apple, Samsung, and Sun, amongst others, are backing BlueRay. This is to say nothing of the movie studios format approval schism. Competition and innovation are wonderful things, but at times, overlooking one’s investment in innovation excellence in favor of the broader marketplace good is essential. Without this, the cost to the marketplace will be high, as it will unnecessarily stymie deployment. Even if others follow Samsung’s announcement that it would ship a dual format reader in case of a standards impasse, this would create a lot of unneeded confusion in the marketplace. Who wants to buy a DVD with the fear that the format could become unsupported in a couple of years? No thanks. Additionally, backwards compatibility must be preserved. DVD players read audio and video CDs, and the next generation must do the same with existing DVDs, and the now quaint CD. At the same time, the shift to digital television will only drive the need for ever higher disc capacity since storing an hour of NTSC, PAL, or SECAM video takes significantly less space than ATSC or other higher definition formats.

However, there may another issue at play that is causing Microsoft and Intel to break from the other PC vendors — home media servers. These two would love people to base their home entertainment systems on a platform that is heavily dependent upon software, processor power, and hard drives. This is in contrast to consumer electronics companies, server centric computer vendors, and many movie production houses that are focused on selling hardware or software (movies and music) in the form of hardware, with scant concern for end user software or manipulation of content. These folks would like to restrict moving or copying content from a DVD whereas Microsoft insists on the portability of movies on to a hard drive, preferably one in a media center. Microsoft and Intel would also like to sell software and hardware upgrades that allow people to edit and produce their own digital content, whereas movie distributors may see this simply as a smokescreen for copyright infringement and piracy. While both sides have valid arguments as to their claimed superiority and flexibility, they simply must agree to come together and present a unified front to the marketplace. If they do not, the cost and opportunities lost to the industry will be substantial, and set back this advancement by moths or even years, not unlike the unnecessarily slow deployment of HDTV.

2 comments:

peter984 said...

question as opposed to comment.....will these new formats have area 1 and 2 formats as dvd's....as I have never heard it talked about....as sony have released the first blueray film disc today

Clay Ryder said...

I know that the AACS (Advanced Access Content System) has been chosen as the copy protection scheme, but to my knowledge this is not the region protection that we have come to know (and hate) on DVDs. I believe that HD-DVD supporters claim that their format will NOT have region codes, but this could also be short term marketing FUD. Nevertheless, the media industry tends to be backward looking, so I would not be surprised if some form of region codes on Blu-Ray were to walk in through the side or back door...