HD DVD vs Blu-ray War Summary

The blue-wars occurring between the next generation blue laser optical storage formats is now in full swing for 2007. The battle over consumers between the HD DVD camp (backed by Toshiba) and the Blu-ray Disc Association (backed by Sony) continues to be fought. The 2007 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held in early January revealed many new products and announcements from both sides of the war. Let us take a look at some of the recent developments and news that have had significant impacts on the optical storage “blue-wars”.

bluraylogoBlu-ray has taken dominance in the Japanese market, partly thanks to the popularity of the Sony PS3 (which includes an embedded Blu-ray Disc player). While this news is interesting and worthy of consideration, it does not directly affect the rest of the worlds’ markets. North America and Europe are still up for grabs as far as I can see, but the HD DVD camp will need to be aggressive if they want to succeed in these markets.

The AACS protection used on both HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc has been circumvented. It is now possible to backup (rip) both Blu-ray and HD DVD discs. And while this early loophole found in the AACS system has yet to be addressed by any movie studios or software vendors, perhaps the most interesting part of this development is the yet-to-be-implemented BD+ protection layer that is available for Blu-ray movie discs. With BD+ providing additional protection assurance to the movie studios, could this format difference sway the movie studios over to prefer Blu-ray? Or could BD+ scare consumers away from the Blu-ray format? We do not yet know, but we will soon find out as BD+ protected discs will most likely be introduced later this year.

Warner announces the Total HD disc. Total HD is a hybrid next generation disc that contains a Blu-ray Disc (BD-ROM) on one side and an HD DVD (HD DVD-ROM) on the other side of a single disc. This disc is compatible with both HD DVD and Blu-ray players. Warner claims that the movies released in the Total HD disc format will not cost “materially” more compared to a standard Blu-ray Disc, but I do not see how that is possible due to the additional licensing fees and manufacturing costs that will no doubt be needed for Total HD disc production. Will the Total HD format help to end the war or help to provide demand for both Blu-ray and HD DVD? After Total HD was announced, the HD DVD camp managed to maintain exclusivity from only one major movie studio: Universal. Total HD could blur the exclusivity of some movie studios as they look to provide content to the widest possible audience of consumers. Because of this, the introduction of the Total HD disc might actually extend the blue-wars and confuse consumers even more. We shall see the impact soon enough once Total HD discs hit the market later this year.

The Nintendo Wii has decreased the demand for the PS3 in North America. Numerous stores and websites have reported that the Nintendo Wii gaming console continues to sell very well. Consumers report that the Wii is extremely difficult to find and purchase due to its’ popularity. On the flip side, many stores actually have a PS3 supply in stock. Now that the initial launch and hype of the PS3 is over, consumers are not rushing the streets to dish out $500+ for the new Sony gaming system. Some might argue that the PS3 and the Wii are targeted towards different customers, but I would disagree. The Nintendo Wii has led to lower than expected PS3 sales in North America, which has in turn lowered the market penetration of the Blu-ray format.

LG launched a combo HD DVD / Blu-ray standalone player and announced a combo Blu-ray burner / HD DVD-ROM reader PC drive. Consumers now have the option of purchasing an LG standalone that supports both HD DVD and Blu-ray disc formats. The downside is that the player does not support the interactive features (iHD) of HD DVD, but it does support the HD playback of the core movie on an HD DVD disc. The first model introduced by LG is expensive, but as with all technology, prices will decline as time goes by and newer models are introduced. Will this HD DVD / Blu-ray combo player establish a precedent for standalone manufacturers? Possibly, but at the least I would expect that a few other manufacturers will follow suit in 2007 to compete with LG in the combo Blu-ray/HD DVD player arena.

HDDVDUniversal Studios announces over 100 new home video titles exclusive to HD DVD. As the only remaining major studio that was exclusive to HD DVD, Universal’s announcement has made a major impact on the blue wars. The massive amount of Universal Studios titles released exclusive to the HD DVD format will help to ensure that HD DVD stays in the batte in 2007.

HD DVD PC drives (burners) have experienced repeatedly delays arriving in the consumer market. On the other side of the fence, Blu-ray PC drives (burners) have been available for quite some time now. Computer enthusiasts want the ability to backup and burn data to the next generation recordable formats. The LG GBW-H10N Blu-ray burner is already here, boasting speeds of up to 4x for BD-R burning, while the HD DVD-R burners are still operating at a measly 1x. So why have there been delays for HD DVD burners? No one knows for sure, but what if the HD DVD camp was relying on NEC for HD DVD burner development? NEC’s optical storage division is now part of Optiarc, which is a joint venture between NEC and Sony (the prime supporter of Blu-ray). Has this NEC/Sony relationship caused NEC to drop their HD DVD burner development? It is not clear at this time, but it is certainly very strange that the HD DVD burners have been repeatedly delayed. Will the lagging HD DVD burners cause computer enthusiasts to buy Blu-ray PC burners instead of HD DVD? Not quite yet, but if the HD DVD supporters do not catch up, it could happen in the future as Blu-ray and HD DVD burners drop in price.

I hope this article has brought you up to date on the current events and activities occurring in the blue-wars between Blu-ray and HD DVD. There is no clear winner at this time, but I will certainly be following all of the developments as time progresses and reporting them here on WesleyTech.com. If you have any comments on these items or you think I should add another event that is important to the blue-wars, please respond to the article below.

About Wes Novack

Wesley Novack is a Technologist working in the software industry, with extensive experience building and managing highly available applications, services, and systems in the public cloud. He has a breadth of experience in online publishing, the consumer electronics industry, and building internet communities. Wes enjoys hanging with his family, skateboarding, hiking, the vegan lifestyle, and a good cup of tea. You can find him on Twitter @WesleyTech.

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3 Comments on “HD DVD vs Blu-ray War Summary”

  1. What is best about the Wii is that you have a wireless controller that doubles as a billy club.

    Ha ha I win. THWAK!

    Nintendo is sure genius. Xbox controlers do not perform well for thwaking those bitch camper noobs in Halo.

    You’ve already read about the strap breaking and taking out windows, TVs and little sisters.

    It’s freakin awesome!

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