Blu-Ray & HD-DVD, holding out hope for a unified format

May 17, 2005

HD-DVDThe fact that I haven’t mentioned either Blu-ray or HD-DVD much here recently, doesn’t mean I’m not fervently interested in the subject. I’ve actually contributed several articles to a friend’s site, on both of the up-coming high definition DVD formats. Lately the entire subject has gone borderline depressing for me, yeah it’s not as bad as a hole in your favorite shirt or anything, but it’s a bummer nonetheless.

One on side of the coin we have Sony, whose Blu-ray high definition DVD format, offers up to 50GB’s of data storage where Toshiba’s HD-DVD now offers up to 45GB’s of storage. Initially HD-DVD was only capable of holding 30GB, but Toshiba in something of a shocker, announced the 45GB capacity recently.

Which brings us back, where? Back to the same stand-off we’ve had between the two camps since the respective formats were introduced. This is the part that scorches my teapot, the consumers much the same as with Betamax/VHS and SACD/DVD-A, are going to get the shaft yet again. Two HD DVD formats are one too many in my book, we need to be confident when we go out and buy that new high definition DVD in the winter of 05 or spring of 06, that we’re making the right decision.

As it stands making that “decision” won’t have any finality to it. And as such I for one won’t be investing in either format, sans a Play Station 3, that will inherently support Blu-ray. But with HD-DVD still in the mix at that time, I certainly won’t be investing 30-40 dollars in any hi-def DVD’s to play on it. So in the end, what are we left with? We’re left with two competing formats vying for the same tray in our DVD player, both with nearly identical storage capacities and features.

I’m about as much for government intervention into business, as a stick in the eye, but I would almost welcome it in this case, sadly however I see no legal precedent that could be applied. Sure big corporations (Microsoft) can be told their unfairly bundling products, and over-stepping their boundaries, but how would two companies be forced to offer ‘less’ competition. Even though in this particular scenario (in my opinion) less competition, i.e. working out a single unified format, would actually be in the consumer’s best interest, not working against it.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

Recently both Toshiba and Sony have held extensive talks on unifying the formats, and sparing the consumer from an impending format war. But thus far the talks have been unsuccessful. Using the betting man cliché, if I had to bet, I’d say we’ll see both formats in some form or another, competing for the same dollar sometime early next spring. And maybe eight months to a year later, we’ll all be able to order up our favorite movies on disc, in high definition without having to worry they’ll be obsolete one day. This is definitely a case where sooner rather than later would be much appreciated.

But who knows, maybe this next round of talks (with the respective companies presidents no less) will bring about a solution. Normally I would take the meeting of the respective CEO’s as a positive note, but it could actually just illustrate how much of a failure the talks have been thus far, thereby making the head honcho’s meeting somewhat of a last ditch effort. I hope that’s not the case though.

Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Blu-ray, HD-DVD