It's been quite a few weeks for HD DVD and Blu-ray.
On Tuesday September 27th, Microsoft and Intel joined each other on the proverbial platform and announced their support for HD-DVD.
The Wintel powerhouse served up this all-but-shocking announcement with a list of technical reasons for the decision. (Apparently, they decided to table the notion of candidly saying "Come on guys – do you really expect us to back both Sony AND Java at the same time?")
Never to be left out of a good PR battle, on Thursday September 29th a cadre of Blu-ray supporters shot back with a point by point defense of Blu-ray. They didn't outright call Microsoft and Intel liars, but they did heavily hint that their pants were smoking and possibly on fire.
It's getting ugly. The gloves are coming off and, if there was any doubt before, this won't be resolved with a nice Cab and the smooth sexy tones of one Mr. Barry White. No Blu-ray/HD-DVD love child is happening. So the question becomes: who's gonna win this war?
The answer? Blu-ray. Below are the five top reasons.
1) Sony is crazy, but Microsoft's not stupid.
As the old saying goes, "On your first day of prison you should beat someone up with a chair and act really crazy. No one wants to mess with a crazy person."
At the time, Sony's decision to produce an MP3 player that didn't play, uh, MP3s seemed... well... ludicrous. However, with the advantage of hindsight we can now see how Sony was simply crazy like a fox ... just another of Sony's forays into jailhouse politics. Say what you will about Sony, but one thing is true: Sony's undying support of their own formats is rarely questioned. MiniDiscs, Memory Sticks, the technological highway is littered with Sony's pet products.
If little projects like Memory Sticks still mar otherwise decent products, one can only imagine the lengths which Sony would be willing to go to protect and propagate a key element of their bread-and-butter product, the PS3.
Microsoft, on the other hand, will eventually support Blu-ray. Blu-ray's capacity advantages make its inclusion an inevitability. While Vista support for Blu-ray might not start in native form, it will be there. Blu-ray drives will ship with third-party drivers. Microsoft will be forced to recognize Blu-ray as a superior format for data storage. This will eventually lead to native support. Say what you will about Microsoft, but they're not stupid.
In terms of features, HD-DVD and Blu-ray are actually quite similar. Both use the same codecs. Both use similar lasers. Both even use AACS (Advanced Access Content System) as a content protection mechanism. Blu-ray, however, has added two additional layers of protection to their offering, BD+ and ROM mark.
ROM mark was designed to prevent large-scale piracy. By utilizing the ever-so-slight differences in disc burners, ROM mark is able to tie disc security to the specific burner used to produce the disc. This makes a "perfect" copy of the disc quite difficult.
BD+ is a safeguard against future cracks and hacks. By including a measure of protection against the soon-to-be-hacked, Blu-ray has a better story when approaching the studios. BD+ could also, theoretically, thwart AACS's managed copy feature. It's a feature that has not exactly earned the love and respect of the Studios.
3) Studio Support
The consumer might not like the additional security measures, but judging by the reaction from content owners, it's a winner. The past week has seen a variety of announcements in support of Blu-ray. Some, like Paramount, have already announced their intention to publish in both formats. Others, like Warner, are expected to do so soon. If reports are correct and Warner is about to soften on their once hard-line support of HD DVD, it would be a crushing blow to HD DVD and only a matter of time before the remaining HD DVD-backing studios followed suit.
It also bears noting that one studio will NEVER publish in both formats. That studio is, of course, Sony Pictures Entertainment.
While you, the consumer, might not like the additional movie security of Blu-ray, chances are you're going to like the additional storage Blu-ray offers. While HD DVD's theoretical limit tops out at a mere 60 gigs (quad layer), Blu-ray is already set to offer 50 gig discs. They are testing 100 gig discs, and their 1 millimeter layers extend their theoretical capacity to 200 gigs.
5) Computer Manufacturers
With no dog in the movie fight, computer manufacturers have, by and large, backed Blu-ray. And why wouldn't they? They are in the data business, and with Blu-ray already set to offer capacity (50 GB) on par with the theoretical limit (60 GB) of its competitor, it's no wonder manufacturers are backing Blu-ray.
Additionally, both formats look to be on similar timelines for release. Dell and HP are both in negotiations with Matsushita to include Blu-ray drives in their computers. These drives could hit PCs as early as March of next year.
While the fight's not over, one's got to give the advantage to Blu-ray. At least that's where the smart money seems to be.
If have comments or suggestions for future columns, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.