Format Wars: A Different Perspective

August 1, 2006

Format WarsYou know where I stand on Blu-ray and HD DVD, we can even see what other consumers have to say in the format war but there’s another group that needs to be heard from as well. The manufacturers and retailers of both HD DVD and Blu-ray offer their own views on the format war in this article from Dealerscope, which is aimed at.. you guessed it dealers and manufacturers.

Dealerscopes Nancy Klosek interviewed several retailers and vendors ranging from Bjorn Dybdahl, president, Bjorn’s Audio Video, Tom Galanis, vice president of operations, 6th Avenue Electronics to Samsungs senior vice president of marketing Jim Sanduski and Mark Knox of the HD DVD promotion group.

Bjorn Dybdahl indicates that when asked whether consumers should wait on either format to mature he prefers to provide “the information so you can make an educated decision on what’s right for you”. Tom Galanis of 6th Avenue Electronics takes the same approach, he states “We’re not taking a stand as to which is better. We’re going to explain to the consumer the benefits for both, and let the consumer decide what’s important.”

This is obviously a logical position for a dealer who represents both formats. If only all retailers took this stance as opposed to the misinformation that some seem intent on regurgitating. Best Buy are you listening? Be careful what you tell consumers our memories are longer than many of your salesmen seem to realize.

The Dealerscope article goes on to ask the retailers how their handling software sales and if their pre-qualifying customers who have HDCP compliant displays. Both dealers also mention that hi-def discs are causing some customers to examine the resolution capabilities of their displays with more detail, a wise move in my opinion.

Another interesting observation from Bjorn’s Audio Video’s Bjorn Dybdahl came in response to the question “Is recording going to be an important feature? It’s not even in the first generation of products.”

Dybdahl responds with: “The U.S. market is not geared much toward recording. We’ll see, but my gut tells me it won’t make that much difference.”

6th Avenue Electronics’s Tom Galanis agrees with: “Recording will be difficult, only because, what are you going to record? If it’s HDMI, what are they going to allow you to record? It will be based on what’s allowable. The time-shifting features are most important to consumers, and they are being addressed now with hard drives.”

The Vendors have their say:

Then we get to the vendors, this was as expected a bit more polarizing and well, to be quite honest insulting, with one reply in particular. Samsung’s Jim Sanduski is asked:

Dealerscope: “Blu-ray players are being released later and at a higher price than HD DVD players. Why this strategy?”

To which Mr. Sanduski replies: “The Blu-ray format will last a decade or longer, and the fact that it was introduced a few months later than HD DVD, in the long-term view, is insignificant. As for pricing, our Blu-ray player is launching at $999, and we are certainly aware that it’s twice the price of the competing format.

But when you tie in everything from content availability, to the 1080p output capability, we’re confident that it’s a very compelling value proposition for the early technology adopter, to whom we’re targeting this product. As time goes on, price-points will decline, and that will broaden the market. It’s a staged process with limited production up front.”

I’m a bit baffled by this response, on several fronts. He seems to indicate that their mainly targeting the early adopter, ok fair enough but in his acknowledgement that the competition is half the price he counters with Blu-ray offers (better) “content availability” and “1080p output capability”.

Taking the content point first, is Mr. Sanduski somehow implying that we have to pay twice as much for more or better content availability? I find that a bit insulting, how about this, why don’t we buy what we want and have the content providers come to us? I don’t need to pay more for the privilege of buying more… I mean really, this is a bit preposterous, content follows player sales not the other way around, unless I haven’t received the memo on the usurping of consumers rights by chance.

The 1080p Argument:

Ah and then we’re thrown the 1080p bone yet again and by Samsung of all manufacturers. The Samsung BD-P1000 has the exact same Broadcom decoder found in the Toshiba HD DVD players, that chip receives the 1080/24p content from the disc (just like HD DVD) and then sends it to the Genesis FLI8638 processor that de-interlaces the video to 1080p.

Here’s what I find so amazing about all of this, the entire process the Samsung uses to output 1080p is no different than sending 1080i/60 out from a HD DVD player to a 1080p display because guess what, the overwhelming majority of 1080p displays use the same or similar processor found downstream of the Broadcom chip in the Samsung BD-P1000.

1080p output from the Samsung BD-P1000 as a justification for spending $500 more for something that just about every 1080p display is already capable of, with a HD DVD player just doesn’t fly with me. Until manufacturers can start decoding 1080p on the fly right off the discs and send that data straight out over HDMI, all of these 1080p arguments are pointless in my opinion.

Even once native 1080p outputs are realized there’s no guarantee it will perform better than 1080i/60 to a 1080p display. This will depend on the player/display in a case by case basis.

I do find it interesting that the capacity chestnut didn’t pop its way into this discussion. I guess that rhetoric is dying down. I think BRDA partners are probably a little hesitant to discuss capacity as HD DVD currently has 5 more gigabytes of it.

Now in all fairness I have to say that I don’t think Mark Knox (HD DVD) was pressed hard enough on manufacturer support or studio support for that matter. This is one case where really think the interviewer missed a golden opportunity to debunk some myths and press for some hard answers.

Mr. Knox does make one point rather eloquently however, when posed with the question:

“Format war aside, consumers are pretty happy with DVD, and many think what they are getting is already high-def, so what is the argument convincing them to upgrade?”

He rightfully responds with:

“Editors typically ask that. But when you talk to consumers, they say, ‘I have a high-definition TV. I know what “CSI” and The Discovery Channel look like—I wish all my stuff looked like that. My regular broadcast channels look terrible on my HDTV. I want my HDTV!’… I don’t think consumers believe the differences are subtle, at all.”

In the end I suppose we didn’t really gain much more insight into all of this than we already had, but I am noticing what appears to be a new trend from representatives of both camps, the accentuate the positive approach.

On one hand we have a Samsung representative who doesn’t even mention capacity while the HD DVD spokesman isn’t pressed on studio support. Is it still too early to ask these hard questions of representatives of companies who are vying for our dollars? I say not. But then again as we’ve already seen things can change on both sides in relatively short amounts of time.



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


Comments

  • cgw

    I read posts that how “heavily” and “untruthfully” Best Buy employees promote PSP3, but never actually believed them until I ran into one local BB employee. During our discussion the guy told me that the promotion disc which the Samsung Blu-ray player is playing at the moment was actually a standard definition DVD, not a Blu-ray DVD. It was so hard to believe he would say something like that. I replied that Samsung would shoot itself in the foot for doing something like this. The BB employee got nothing to say, and had to change the topic. My local Best Buy only has one Samsung Blu-ray player, and it has been sitting on the shelf since its launch.

  • cgw

    I read posts that how “heavily” and “untruthfully” Best Buy employees promote PSP3, but never actually believed them until I ran into one local BB employee. During our discussion the guy told me that the promotion disc which the Samsung Blu-ray player is playing at the moment was actually a standard definition DVD, not a Blu-ray DVD. It was so hard to believe he would say something like that. I replied that Samsung would shoot itself in the foot for doing something like this. The BB employee got nothing to say, and had to change the topic. My local Best Buy only has one Samsung Blu-ray player, and it has been sitting on the shelf since its launch.