HD DVD versus Blu-Ray…

You probably own a DVD player, and likely a number of DVD movies. But if you have or are thinking about buying a high definition television, there is one thing you should be aware of…

Your DVDs aren’t high definition. And in fact, the DVD format (approx 4 GB) can’t store enough data to support a full length high definition movie: you need something in the range of 8 GB for two hours. But relax! The industry has you covered. They’ve been working on a new format for several years, and its about to come roaring in to your nearest Best Buy or Future Shop…Unfortunately, “it” isn’t a single format. Its two formats, and they are incompatible.

On the one hand, you have Blu-Ray: Sony, Hitachi, Walt Disney, and 130 other companies are behind this format. Its totally incompatible with DVD format since it uses a different kind of laser. It comes complete with drakonian digital rights management meant to satisfy Sony and others who want to make sure you have to buy several copies of every movie you might want to watch, one for every device you might want to watch it on. It can currently store up to 50 GB of data on a single disk, and potentially as much as 200 GB. You’ll likely be able to get a Blu-Ray player with or as an accessory for your PlayStation 3.

On the other hand, you have HD DVD: Microsoft, Sanyo, Paramount Pictures, and a couple hundred other companies are behind this format. An HD DVD player can also play DVD disks since they use the same type of (red) laser. It also is encumbered with digital rights management, but has a “guaranteed” level of fair use that allows the buyer of an HD DVD to play the media back on several different devices. HD DVD is limited to about 25 GB of data on a single disk, and potentially as much as 60 GB. You will likely be able to buy an HD DVD player as an accessory for your XBox 360 sometime later in 2006.

For me, the choice is pretty obvious at the moment. HD DVD makes a lot more sense because of its (somewhat) fairer digital rights management and compatibility features with existing DVD content. Ideally, the two formats would somehow join hands and become happy confederates, sharing and caring for all of us consumers to benefit. Realistically, however, I think we stand on the precipice of another VHS versus Betamax war. It won’t be pretty.

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2 thoughts on “HD DVD versus Blu-Ray…”

  1. And much like the last time, the argument isn’t about which technology is superior…especially this time round. Putting 2 lasers and 2 control chips in a box is cheap and easy. No it’s all about those “rights managment” issues, and the respective media libraries of the parties in question. Whoever “wins” gets to sell their movies, and the losers will have to pay to have theirs put in the competitors format later.

    I knew there was a reason why the news of all these celebrities appearing at CES this year made me uneasy… and now I know why. It shows that the “content providers” in the media “partnerships” have taken the upper hand over the technology innovators. ( Don’t get me wrong…the techno geeks should run everything either 😉 And the big media companies are all about market control… actually providing content to consumers is secondary.

  2. Yeah, I think you have the right of it, although I’m not sure about whether anyone will have a “Blu-Ray + traditional DVD player” any time soon- there are quite a few technical problems to overcome.

    Both of the technologies have digital rights management- basically, a way for the owner of the copyright to control how you watch their content. Of the two, HD DVD seems to at least recognize that you should have the right to watch the movie you bought on, say, both your computer and the video player under your TV. Blu-Ray would have restrictions that would allow it to work only on one or the other- you’d need two copies if you wanted to watch it on two different devices. Personally, I’m not very fond of either approach- if I pay $20 for a movie, I figure I should be able to watch it however I dang well please. But Blu-Ray bothers me the most…especially since its Sony’s technology, and they are already well known for their disrespect of user’s rights (I.E.: their auto-installing root kit on their audio CDs).

    Anyway, I’m not sure that either approach is really a “win” for the consumer. Time will tell….

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