Sony chief executive Sir Howard Stringer had his 15 minutes of Internet fame when he declared this week that the ongoing battle between Blu-ray and HD-DVD has reached a stalemate.
Is this really all that surprising? Think back to your cassette player when CDs hit the market. There were compelling reasons to upgrade to CD including:
- Location aware playback. Instead of just 45 minutes of music, a CD allowed for digital reading of tracks that allowed the listener to skip to the next, or previous tracks.
- Higher fidelity, with the capability of being a digital signal all the way up to the speaker. This means no degradation in quality when making copies. (only the threat of lawsuits). Also, no degradation is caused from playback.
- Smaller form factor, and ultimately cheaper. Even though we never had the cost savings passed on to us from the big wigs. Still considerably cheaper to burn a CD, then dub a cassette.
- Higher storage capacity allowing (ultimately) 80 minutes of playback vs. 60 for cassette.
So, executive summary – you would be stupid not to have upgraded to the next-gen platform.
Now, back to HD-DVD and Blu-ray. It echoes of the infamous war between VHS and Betamax. All four of these products are / were undistinguished to the consumer. A purchase is usually driven by titles available, and price. VHS ultimately won because of the open licensing of its platform for content providers. This made VHS ubiquitous, and Betamax a fringe find.
Sun Tzu taught to never attack an enemy where he is strongest. The attrition is too high for the results gained. Instead, lets get creative. Bend the technological lines of what you think a format can provide, and converge with existing technologies to make a stellar product.
Digital signals are delivered to the speaker. Every device capable of playing a CD employs a DAC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital-to-analog_converter) to send analog audio to the speaker.
I believe Blu-ray and HD-DVD aren’t being adopted for a few reasons. For one, HDTVs are just starting to be purchased in decent numbers. On top of that, most people either don’t know what an HD picture looks like as compared to an analog one, or they just don’t care. After that, the discs are too expensive. DVDs were priced so cheap so that the format would take over VHS. Now they want to rake in teh dollaz (http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060208-6136.html). Which leads to the most important thing — consumer animosity. Both camps think they are doing the consumer a favor by selling them movies at $40 a pop, and then put so much DRM in place that legitimate users can’t use the product (http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20071007-new-blu-ray-discs-with-bd-drm-failing-to-play-on-some-devices.html).
Personally, I refuse to buy into either format until it doesn’t matter which I go with.