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HD DVDs Are Coming!

Published October 14, 2005 in Technology
By Ryan Parsons | Images property of Blu-Ray.Com
Blu-Ray Case Phillips case for the ‘Blu-Ray’ disc.
Let’s face it. Some of the top emerging technologies that will begin to flood our homes this year and next are widescreen monitors and anything that has ‘high definition’ stamped on it. Though cable has already introduced consumers to the advantage of having a television capable of high definition images, this is only the tip of the iceberg. However, what a tip it is! Because of this new technology, just about 10% of American homes have at least one television set that is HD compatible. But can this shift in demand be just from the possibility of better cable? Well, not exactly.

Blu-Ray vs. HD DVD


There are already Progressive-Scan DVD players that take advantage of the high-definition technology by outputting a video signal to a HD television set at 480P, instead of 480i. However, this is moderately different than the HD signal offered by HD-compatible channels through your local cable company. The resolution witnessed is almost 3x that of 480i, with 1080 lines of resolution (1080i). If you own an HD projector such as a Panasonic or Mitsubishi DLP, watching your favorite sporting event or late night television show is more than promising. The picture is so sharp that some consumers mention that the image shown is near ‘surreal.’

However, before now this type of picture has been limited to cable and streaming videos on the net. Luckily, both Sony and the king of DVD production, Toshiba, have decided to take a shot into creating an HD DVD.

Actually, I should not refer to the next stage of DVD as HD DVD but High Definition DVD. I know, it is the exact same thing, but Toshiba has trademarked the title HD DVD. Both Toshiba and Sony have set out and created two separate technologies that represent the next age of DVD products. Sony has named their high-def DVD ‘Blu-Ray’ while Toshiba has taken a more familiar name in ‘HD DVD.’ Though both have their advantages, the market is setting up to allow only one of these technologies to move forward; which is a good thing for consumers. So what can we expect to see in computers and on store shelves by next year?

Though the competition is still heated between the two companies, with even Bill Gates joining the ranks of ‘HD DVD’ in criticism of various aspects of ‘Blu-Ray’, it looks like Sony will remain the new king of the electronics market. How did they pull it off? Well, let’s first take a brief look at the specs for each different hi-def DVD technology.


Capacity


This arena got a majority of the consideration when it came to which technology was going to take us into the future. Any time you create something new, you want to make sure that the new product will have the ability to last and grow with further advancements. This is one of the first major advantages to using ‘Blu-Ray’ over ‘HD DVD.’ According to the latest estimates, ‘Blu-Ray’ will dominate ‘HD DVD’ when it comes to storage capacity. Featuring the ability to hold up to 200GB of data compared to 60GB by ‘HD DVD’, ‘Blu-Ray’ has found one their greatest stepping stones. Though the technology only allows up to 100GB to be placed on a ‘Blu-Ray’ disc at this point in time, it has been suggested that over time they could push it up to 200GB, allowing further advancements in resolution and extra features to be captured onto a single disc.


Panasonic Blu-Ray Player Panasonics prototype players for the ‘Blu-Ray’ disc.

Cost


The cost to produce the high-def DVDs is the largest disadvantage that Sony faces. ‘Blu-Ray’ discs have a surface layer that is thin, extremely thin. At almost 1/5th the surface thickness that is featured on ‘HD DVD’, Sony explains that the difference in size is to allow the disc laser to focus properly on the condensed data. Though CDs and DVDs are thin already, this change in thickness will force Sony to admit to high production costs in order to build the machinery needed to create ‘Blu-Ray’ DVDs on a mass scale.

Though this is most likely the largest issue to Sony’s ‘Blu-Ray’, it does have the factor of time, something that will allow the costs to drop significantly eventually.

Support


Another big factor into which company will take the lead in this new technology is the amount of support and backing either Sony or Toshiba receives from various companies in the following fields: gaming, software, computer manufacturing, film distribution and more. Since it would be more of a set back to allow both Toshiba and Sony to move forward with their technologies, there must come a point where one of the high-def DVD manufacturers receives a majority of support. As of the writing of this article, Sony has witnessed a domino effect as more and more companies begin to join their ranks. But why?

The easy solution is to admit that Sony has a strong hold on household electronics such as computer accessories, consoles, players and monitors. We have already witnessed Sony display their strength during the release of their PSP console, a product that had a surprising amount of support and tons of products, add-ons, movies and software available upon its release.

You can also take a look at the success of Sony’s Playstation 2. Even though the games on X-Box do look better and play better, Sony’s connections and history has allowed it to offer more for its console system than that of Microsoft. However, case in point, more may not always be better..

Now that gaming consoles has been mentioned, it is best to point out that Sony’s greatest strength may be their upcoming console Playstation 3 (PS3). Doing somewhat of a horizontal maneuver, Sony has answered this question with a single product: “How can Sony, Panasonic and Sharp introduce this new technology to consumers and therefore cause demand for their product, ‘Blu-Ray,’ and necessary accessories/players grow?” Considering that prices will start high, the most available option to Sony was to include the ‘Blu-Ray’ technology in Playstation 3.

By doing so, Sony will ‘seed’ the market with their ‘Blu-Ray’ technology by selling an estimated thirty-million Playstations over the next three years. Besides ‘seeding’ the market, the high-def technology may just give Sony the technology boost they need to outperform Microsoft’s X-Box 2. Therefore, Sony’s PS3 will work as a double positive, as the inclusion of ‘Blu-Ray’ in the gaming console should cause demand to increase for both the technology and the console itself.

Over the next few months expect to see Sony replace the DVD king Toshiba as the hi-def DVD king; a technology that will be delivered by ‘Blu-Ray’ discs.

Interesting facts:
  • It was suggested that both the technologies from Sony and Toshiba could possibly survive in the consumer market. However, it has also been proven that it would be nearly impossible to have a player that can play both types of DVDs. If both technologies were to enter the consumer market, it would mean that players and other products would have to be developed specifically for each disc. Wal-Mart decided to put its foot down on this decision and announced that it would only carry one technology, but wouldn’t announce which one.
  • Sony added further encryption on the ‘Blu-Ray’ to help satisfy various critics including the movie studios. The encryption will protect the studios from having films ripped directly off of the hi-def discs. However, the encryption also prevents Microsoft’s Windows Media Center from streaming video off the disc to deliver to connected monitors around the house. Bill Gates balked at this and probably doesn’t appreciate the edge this technology will give PS3.

  • To witness the domino effect mentioned above, head over to Blu-Ray.Com where you can watch as companies in various fields announce their support for Sony’s ‘Blu-Ray’ instead of Toshiba’s ‘HD DVD.’

    *As of right now, the ‘Blu-Ray’ disc will come in 25GB and 50GB formats.

    Stay tuned for updates.


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    Sources: Images property of Blu-Ray.Com
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