Thursday, January 5, 2006

Red Ray is Here to Stay

The video wars are again upon us, like VHS v. Betamax in the 80's.  What will prevail as the new video standard in the next decade?  Microsoft and Toshiba are betting the farm on HD-DVD technology, which will increase the resolution on big-screen HD televisions.  On Christmas, I watched a football game and The Aviator on my friend Bobby's new 42" plasma flat panel.  Although the movie, which was produced on a standard DVD was clear and enjoyable, it didn't have the sharpness, the crispness and the immersive feeling of the football game, which was broadcast in high definition.  HD-DVD and Blu-Ray stand ready to solve this dilemma for consumers.

An HD-DVD disk is the same size as a standard DVD, but holds up to 30 GB.  The present standard, Dual Layer DVD, only holds about 16 GB.

Sony Corporation is the leader behind the Blu-Ray technology, which can put up to 50 GB on a DVD sized disk.   Blu-Ray will be first on the market, with their players debuting in the first quarter of 2006.  HD-DVD will soon follow.  Microsoft will release PC compatible disk drives and x-box versions of HD-DVD as well as the AV component style player. 

Which one will survive as the industry standard?  Although Blu-Ray offers greater resolution and picture quality, like Betamax before it, this will not matter.  Blu-Ray will be the favorite of the industry but it will still fail.  The reason?  HD-DVD will be far more flexible.  The reason Sony is betting the farm on Blu-ray is because Sony manufactures content as well as technology.  Blu-Ray is much more difficult to copy (or Pirate, if you want to use the perjorative).  Microsoft (although not expressing this in so many words) is convinced that users will embrace the technology that gives them the most freedom.  Although Blu-Ray supports the needs of Sony's entertainment divisions, Microsoft and Toshiba have no such demand on their resources.  They are free to market technology which permits users to make personal backups of their disks at no cost to their bottom line.

Also, the units that support HD-DVD will debut at 1/3 the cost of the initial Blu-Ray units.  HD-DVD will be the format of the future.

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