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Last Updated: Friday, 3 March 2006, 17:32 GMT
DVD battle heads for showdown
Ian Hardy
By Ian Hardy
Click's North America technology correspondent

The next thing on from recordable DVDs, Blu-ray and HD DVD formats are due to come to market this year. But which type will win over consumers?

Blu-ray disc display

As consumers, we have merely been spectators to the three-year fight over the next generation of DVDs.

But very soon we will be right in the middle of the fray as high definition discs and decks finally arrive in shops.

In America, the launch of HD DVD hardware, already six months late, is supposed to come at any moment.

The first-adopter price point is lower than expected. There will be two different players on the market, says Mark Knox from HD DVD Promotion Group.

"The first will retail in the US for $499 [around 280], and then another at $799 [around 450] with a few more features and some beefier components."

The Blu-ray Disc Association, which represents the competing and incompatible format, is not worried, according to the group's Andy Parsons.

He says: "I don't think that's going to be such a threat for us. I believe that a new format takes time to launch, and anybody who's in the market a couple of months before anybody else is unlikely to have a big impact just by nature of being on the market a relatively brief period of time before the other format."

Top trumps

Blu-ray is the Sony-supported format, whereas HD DVD is led by Toshiba.

Both sides have been bragging about the respective tech specs. Blu-ray discs have 50GB maximum storage capacity, while HD DVDs boast only 45GB .

HD DVD player
HD DVD players are going on sale in the US soon
Sandra Benedetto, from Blu-ray partner Pioneer, says: "Blu-ray disc really does, with its capacity of 25 GB single layer and 50 GB dual layer, allow for the creative directors and the artists really to only be limited by their imagination.

"That can only be good for the consumer because that means a better viewing experience, better video quality, and superior sound."

Sony also has the biggest number of partners, including Hollywood studios; Toshiba has far fewer industry supporters.

But it is claimed HD DVD discs will be easier and therefore cheaper to produce.

Mark Knox says: "When you look at someone who makes the discs, the factories, he's got to spend a couple of hundred grand to upgrade his equipment to make both DVDs and HD DVDs, as opposed to building a whole new facility for millions to make Blu-ray discs."

Content key

Sony's Trojan horse in the battle for supremacy is the PlayStation 3 with built in Blu-ray.

It seems simple - sell millions of people a video game console and create an instant user base for Blu-ray movies.

However, Sony's PlayStation Portable has had limited success with its proprietary film format, UMD.

Nothing is written in stone and I think that's the one thing that has to be remembered here
Melissa Perenson, PC World Magazine
Nonetheless, most people agree a catalogue of strong content is crucial to the victor of the high definition disc fight. Sony hopes to make 150 movies available this year, and HD DVD plans to offer 200.

Betsy Smith, from Toshiba USA, is optimistic. She says: "This is definitely the time that HD DVD will come into the consumer's home.

"We've been working very closely with the studios, they're completely ready to go to production with all of the software, and the consumers are ready for this extra HD content."

Maybe in a few months we will find out, but with two competing formats it is hard to believe that the average consumer is going to invest in a whole new platform and movie library.

Deadlock?

Neither side shows signs of backing down.

Mark Knox says: "I just don't foresee the point coming where we give up."

And Andy Parsons says: "It hasn't even occurred to us that we might lose."

On paper Blu-ray looks the stronger camp, boasting more partners both in the movie and computer world.

Melissa Perenson, from PC World Magazine, says: "The thing to remember is that none of the agreements are exclusive.

"So if you remember the beta versus VHS war, Sony was beta and then eventually they did do VHS.

"Nothing is written in stone and I think that's the one thing that has to be remembered here."

As yet it very difficult to takes sides as a consumer.

There is still no official launch date or price for the PlayStation 3 and reports circulating on the internet, for what they are worth, suggest the entire rollout of Blu-ray may be on hold for months while copy protection concerns are worked out.



SEE ALSO:
Blu-ray versus HD-DVD
28 Jan 05 |  Click
Sony wins major DVD studio ally
21 Oct 05 |  Technology
Battle for the next-gen DVD
16 Feb 04 |  Technology
Tech giants move on next-gen DVDs
27 Sep 05 |  Technology
Games win for Blu-ray DVD format
07 Jan 05 |  Technology


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