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Chris Llana, Editor


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Blu-Ray Disc vs. HD-DVD: the Saga Continues

June 6, 2005

If you've heard about the next-gen DVD format war, you may have heard that a compromise standard was in the offing.

Well, it's off.

It looks like there will be two incompatible high-definition video-disc formats in the store next year: HD-DVD before the holiday buying season, with Blu-Ray Disc (BD) appearing on store shelves during the first quarter of 2006.

If you don't know exactly what I'm talking about, link over to our DVD Future section for a proper accounting.

Since being announced in 2002, both of these standards have been going at it, and the rivalry has only heated up as the end-2005 introduction of these high-def movie machines has drawn closer. Both sides have been roundly condemned by consumer advocates for their intransigence, and castigated and cajoled by Hollywood and DVD retailers.

Nobody wants two standards--two of everything!

Sony (BD camp leader) and Toshiba (HD-DVD coalition head) both understand this, but geez, there's just so much money at stake, for both sides!

So in response to the pressure, both sides called a truce (while working full-speed on their respective product launches) to discuss the possibility of a unified standard, incorporating the best features of each format. Within a week, reports were surfacing that an agreement was imminent, that the compromise hi-def player would incorporate the Blu-Ray disc structure and the HD-DVD software (coding and encryption).

Toshiba issued a press release denying the report.

The talks broke down, even as both sides insisted they were open to discussion (while remaining unyielding in their positions).

The format war continued.

New calls for compromise prompted new meetings.

But too much money had already been invested, product development was too far along, production was too close at hand, to call it all off. Any compromise standard would have brought all of that to a halt for up to 18 months while development on any new compromise standard started anew.

The expectations all around were that consumers would be able to pop a high-definition movie disc into their new "DVD" player by the end of this year, not by the end of next year. A belated compromise launch would have been an anti-climax.

The parties now admit there will be two competing players in the stores for awhile, and maybe a compromise standard will come out of that, or either Blu-Ray Disc or HD-DVD will ultimately prevail.

Time will tell.

See the DVD Future section to see what each standard has going for it, the technical differences, who supports which one, when prerecorded movies will be out, etc.

For DVD news in general (upcoming releases, content, reviews, etc.), check out www.thedigitalbits.com.