Saturday, January 06, 2007

Blue-Ray or HD-DVD? Please.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
- George Santayana

So, in case you've missed it, there's a war going on over the format for delivering High-Definition movies on DVD. In one corner, we have Sony and its pals with Blue-Ray; in the other is the Toshiba gang with HD-DVD. Both formats use blue lasers and are incompatable with existing DVD players. There are pros and cons to each format, but what matters most to consumers is that neither one is the clear winner.
You'd think that the industry would have learned from VHS vs. Betamax that there are no winners in these situations. I blame the more recent DVD-R(W|DL) vs DVD+R(W|DL) for fogging the memories of these companies. That format war was "won" by producing drives that can record to either media. In reality of course, consumers were the losers since they're left with having to figure out whether they should choose the "+" or "-" variant of the three different recording flavors -- or more likely, they just pick one at random and pay a higher price since the media manufacturers have to cater to two smaller markets rather than one large one.
Several industry pundits have suggested that this latest format war should be "solved" by the exact same approach, producing a drive that was capable of handling either format. How they can honestly think this is a good thing is beyond me. Yet, lo and behold, LG just announced a dual format player at this year's CES -- provided, of course, that they can get the two camps to agree to license. I'm sure they won't have any problem finding plenty of fools willing to fork over the $1200 for the darn thing.
The whole situation gets me to thinking, however: who's really pushing for HD movies on DVD? It's the industry, of course. Most people I know don't even have a surround sound setup; nor do they have 50" TVs taking up half their living rooms. And as for those folks who are really into the movie experience, I don't suspect any of them are overly psyched about the prospect of replacing their entire DVD collection with new, HD versions.
No, John C. Dvorak, this opinion does not mean I'm being a luddite. I just think that the whole idea of HD on DVD misses the boat. Want to know where I think the industry should be headed? Stay tuned.

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