HOME Technology Nov 2007
High definition duel
DVD format wars

A standards war between high powered electronics companies seeking to determine the best way for us to watch movies and store data has resulted in consumers being caught in the crossfire again.

The battle over the high definition future - which way to turn between the Sony-led Blu-ray and the Toshiba-led HD-DVD format - is reminiscent of the Beta vs VHS battles in the late-1970s. At stake is the next generation of DVD recorders and players that will become standard in our households over the next few years.


The Hollywood studios will ultimately decide which technology will prevail. The formats support more vivid reproduction of video at up to 1920 x 1080 progressive scan -  the highest possible image resolution - as well as top quality audio and more storage, opening the way for more interactivity and special features for movies.


Next generation home entertainment players are already on the shelves from a few suppliers at around $1000, and high-end computers are coming out with DVD recorders and players that handle either or both formats. The battle is also being waged at gaming console level where Sony PlayStation 3 comes standard with Blu-ray while Microsoft Xbox 360 Ė if you buy the $250 add on - is HD-DVD compatible.

As well as 1080p resolution movies theyíll both still play your old CDs, DVDs, MP3 music files and photo disks.  Toshiba launched several players here with a price point of around $1100. In Australia the price has come down around $600 in a bid to gain leverage against Blu-ray.

Itís still early days for home recorders. Sharp has announced a one terabyte (1000Gb) model, capable of recording 127 hours of digital high-definition content for Japanese release at around $NZ3500. Sony, Toshiba and Panasonic have also announced recorders for the Japanese market.


Blu-ray, backed by Apple, Dell, Hitachi, HP, JVC, LG, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, TDK and Thomson uses a blue-violet laser, which is shorter than the red lasers in previous models, enabling greater precision for storing and accessing data. It offers more than five times the storage capacity of traditional DVDs (4.4Gb) with up to 25Gb on a single-layer disc and 50Gb on a dual-layer disc.

HD-DVD has 15Gb capacity in single later format and 30Gb in double layer; because it is an
extension of the existing DVD format, pricing for the new players is about 25 percent lower than Blu-ray offerings. Microsoft recently partnered with Toshiba in the Advanced Interactivity Consortium (AIC) throwing its muscle behind the HD-DVD format to try and accelerate the adoption of next generation content and devices including DVD players, PCs, TVs, cell phones, portable media players and game consoles.  

Between mid-2006 and the end of September an estimated 4.98 million high definition discs were sold, including 3.01 million in Blu-ray and 1.97 million in HD-DVD, according to research group, Home Media.

Coupled with high definition screens both formats will deliver a marked improvement in quality but with only a couple of hundred movie titles around, itís not exactly mainstream yet. There are expected to be around 230 Blu-ray titles by the end of the year and the HD-DVD consortium is trying to push beyond the 50 titles. Some studios are releasing in both formats.

Meanwhile both sides are offering free titles to help promote sales of their players.  PriceWaterhouseCoopers in its Global Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2007-2011 believes the competing standards could be inhibiting the market and there was every likelihood all studios would eventually start releasing in both formats.

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