The time has come for the blu-ray discs to battle it out with the dvd. This is the biggest battle since the video and the dvd went head to head. In January, anyone looking for a winner of the war between the two next-generation discs designed to replace DVD would have picked Blu-ray over the opposing HD-DVD format. The bet looked well-placed: the first two Blu-ray players, Samsung’s BD-P1000 and Panasonic’s BD10, along with a handful of GB BD movies, were in Australian stores in December.
HD-DVD movies were scarce and a player was nowhere in sight. Software support for Blu-ray is hefty. Every big Hollywood studio except Universal backs Blu-ray, and only a handful of labels are opting to press movies in both formats. Blu-ray can also count on the hardware support of the world’s highest-profile consumer electronics companies including Sony, Panasonic, Apple Computers, Pioneer, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Dell, LG and Hitachi.
The HD-DVD camp includes Toshiba, Microsoft, GE, Kenwood, Canon, Onkyo, Teac, NEC and Mitsubishi. But the clincher for Blu-ray is Sony’s Blu-ray-equipped PS3. The high-resolution gaming console is due out on March 23 and will be snapped up. No wonder that last month it looked like a 3-0 to Blu-ray. But just when it looked like being all over for HD-DVD two things happened. Both prove why a month is a long time in the ever-shifting and often murky politics of consumer electronics. The arrival of the HD-E1, Toshiba’s first HD-DVD player, in Australia, in the middle of last month was the first.
The second occurred a week earlier at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, an event at which the adult industry holds a concurrent exhibition. The whisper coming from LA got louder as the show went on. Word was the $72 billion-a-year worldwide porn industry would use HD-DVD to maintain its 10 per cent share of an annual market of standard DVDs worth an estimated $30.3 billion. The official reason was HD-DVD’s lower cost of production.
Unofficially, it is Sony’s longstanding and praiseworthy policy of disallowing its media to handle pornography. The upshot is a Lazarus-like revival of HD-DVD. But the smart money is still on Blu-ray. The format has the software and hardware firepower to see off HD-DVD, notwithstanding the latter’s support from the adult industry. In the long run, HD-DVD will survive only if the opposing camps agree to build dual-format machines.
It’s a rerun of the recordable-DVD debacle all over again, when opposing groups publicly refused to build dual-format recorders. The confused public bought neither. In the end everyone caved in and nearly all DVD recorders read the -R and +R recorder formats. Until the format issue is resolved, Toshiba is pressing on with HD-DVD and has finally released its first Australian high-definition player, the $1099 HD-E1. The HD-E1 was meant to arrive before December, but after a frustrating number of false starts Australia’s first HD-DVD player has finally.
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