| Wednesday, March 22, 2006
| REMEMBER VHS vs. BETAMAX? SOON IT'LL BE HD-DVD vs. BLU-RAY
|For the last four years, electronics makers battled among themselves about hos to make a better DVD. Unable to decide, they are now going to face off in the marketplace -- starting this month with the U.S. rollout of the first next generation DVD player from Toshiba Group.
Toshiba's HD-A1, which goes on sale this month for US$499, is the first machine with a new DVD format called HD-DVD, a moniker that emphasizes "high definition" picture quality. On May 23, Samsung Electronics will launch the first machine working on a competing format called Blu-Ray, areference to the color of the laser that reads the new disc. Samsung's machine,called BD-1000 is expected to be priced about US$999.
While consumers can buy DVD players for as low as US$35, both formats will hold five to six times the amount of date as existing DVDs, allowing movie studies and game developers to offer even better video and sound quality and more features on them.
With both formats, viewers can expect to see sharper pictures, get more vivid colors and hear deeper sounds than in existing DVDs, though it will be hard to enjoy the high quality images unless you also have a high definition televiions set or computer screen.
DVD STANDARD AVOIDED FORMAT WAR
In a recent demonsttation of a Blu-ray machine, a shot of sunlight breaking throuhg an overcast sky was so crisp that wispy tendrils of the clouds were visible. The two types of players won't play discs from the other high definition format, though they will play existing DVDs and CDs.
When the original DVD emerged a decade ago, the prospect of a market debilitating format war drove electronics makers to agree on a single design.
But no agreement emerged this time despite months of delays, informal talks between engineers, formal negotiations by corporate attorneys and a chorus of other companies with moeny at stake-- including movie and game studios, computer makers and software firms -- urging compromise.
Toshiba hopes to gran an early lead in the race. In addition to the HD-A1, it also unveiled recently the first notebook computer with a built in HD DVD drive, which will become available at the end of the March and April.
THE NEXT GENERATION
Sony, the world's second biggest consumer electronics maker, will begin selling its first Blu-ray high definition DVD player in Juky for about US$1,000.
Next generation DVD players will roll out in phases in the rest of the world later this year, chiefly tied to the availability of prerecorded movies to play on them, manufacturers say.
Manufacturers hope consumers won't let a format choice discourage them from buying a new DVD player, as happened when Betamax and VHS videocassette recorders competed in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
But the next generation DVD players are facing an even tougher competitive environment because there are lots of other kinds of recording devices to choose from, including hard drive recorders such as TiVo, broadband delivered video on demand to Pcs and TVs and even the rise of portable, chipbased storage cards.
What is more, the new machines have plenty of other limitations as they arrive. Only a few movies will initially be available in the new foramts. Sony recently said aims to seel 16 Blu-ray title by June, including "Hitch" and "King Fu Hustle". Other studios have committed to releasing movies in Blu-ray discs, inlcuding Twentieth Century Fox, Lions Gate Entertainment, Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures,and Walt Disney.
The HD-DVD side has fewer studios lined up, though they say they will have movies out soon after Toshiba's players reach stores.
FEARS OF DIVISIVENESS
Which format will ultimaltely win is an open question. Sony lined up a greater number of hardware makers and movie studios to back Blu-ray, but some have shifted their allegiance as delays continued.
Microsoft switched to HD-DVD and dragged Hewlett-Packard in its wake.
Last month, LG Electronics, a longtime supporter of Blu-ray machines, decided to license HD-DVD tech nology from Toshiba. The company is deciding whether to bring out separate players or create hybrid devices athat can accept both formats, a spokewoman says.
"It's unfortunate they could'nt come together to create one format', says Greg Mesmer of Audio Video Consulting, an electronics dealer in suburban Boston. "This divisiveness is only going to cause people to stay away".
(Source: Wall Street Journal/Bloomberg New by: Evan Ramstad and Andrew Morse)
|posted by infraternam meam @ 10:37 PM