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In Sony's Stumble, the Ghost of Betamax 356

QuatermassX writes "In a lengthy piece in today's New York Times, Ken Belson equates Sony's troubles in bringing Blu-Ray to market with their classic fumble of Betamax technology in the early 1980's. He also discusses the influence of Microsoft in the recent advances in the adoption of the perceived underdog in this fight, HD-DVD. The article also summarises the various twists and turns in the development of the format along with some scary numbers (that we're familiar with) on the estimated cost of Playstation 3 From TFA: "There are other industry analysts who contend that Microsoft is simply propping up Toshiba to further its own aims, like countering the PlayStation and combating the spread of Sun's Java software. Nonetheless, Toshiba is happy for the backing, given that the format was written off for dead just a few months ago. '"There's no doubt that everyone has various agendas," said Mark Knox, an adviser to the Toshiba promotion group. "But whatever their agenda, Microsoft's support has been a huge boon to HD-DVD.'""
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In Sony's Stumble, the Ghost of Betamax

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  • by IntlHarvester ( 11985 ) on Sunday February 26, 2006 @11:09AM (#14803886) Journal
    OK, so originally Blu-Ray and HD-DVD were going to be very different technologies. HD-DVD was supposed to be a quick and cheap evolution of the existing DVD spec -- small capacity red-laser disks that used advanced codecs such as H.264 to store HD video. Blu-Ray on the other hand was super high-tech high-capacity blue laser disks but still depended on MPEG-2.

    But since the war of words has started, each format adopted each other's features. Now they *both* have Blue lasers, both have all the same advanced codecs, and even both have the same copy-protection system, all adding engineering and patent license costs. To top it off, HDDVD didn't get to market early, and thy are both likely to be on shelves this holiday consumption season. In short the differences are now pointless from the consumer's standpoint -- it doesn't really matter which one wins.

    It's been speculated that Microsoft is trying to up-the-ante by backing HD-DVD heavily. Either to force a merger between the formats (and patent pools), or to stall the market until computer-based VOD can take over.
    • Considering consumers arn't going to be rash when they buy a several hundred/thousand dollar media player for Hi-Def disks, how many people are *really* going to pick up a next generation player? People remember the betamax affair, and know that this could ultimately get messy. Everyone will wait until companies solve their petty squabbles.

      As for me, I'll continue not caring about slightly higher definition movies packed onto highly DRMed disks costing more and delivering little. Apart from as a medium for
      • [H]ow many people are *really* going to pick up a next generation player?

        Me. Along with hundreds of thousands of others when we get our PS3's.

      • People remember the betamax affair, and know that this could ultimately get messy. Everyone will wait until companies solve their petty squabbles.

        This is a misreading of what happened with Betamax. IIRC, the marketshare figures went something like this:

        Year 1: 40% VHS 60% Beta (Beta was out first)
        Year 2: 50% VHS 50% Beta (Tie -- either format could win!)
        Year 3: 90% VHS 10% Beta (Cheap VHS players destroy Beta quickly)

        So, it's not that consumers waited. Once VHS was established, they all just went and
      • I'm excited by the Maxtor(I guess now Seagate) Holo-Discs.I mean,What self respecting geek wouldn't like being able to back up 300 GIGS per disc? As for Hd-Dvd/Blu-Ray,I am hoping the Seagate puts them both out to pasture.I wouldn't spend a dime on Blu-Ray considering it comes from the makers of Betamax/Memory Stick/Minidisc.

        I personally think they are going to keep fighting over who has the nastiest DRM and something like Holo-Discs will come along and make them both extinct.They seem to be forgetting th

    • by Anonymous Coward
      (1) The name is "HD DVD", use a space not a minus : http://www.dvdforum.org/hddvd-tech.htm [dvdforum.org]

      (2) BD has always had MPEG4-AVC / H.264 as one of its mandatory decoders.

      (3) It's up to the movie companies to decide between mpeg2, mpeg4 og vc1 for each title.

      (4) Some of the first BD titles will most probably be MPEG2 and of equal or better quality than MPEG4 titles, since the MPEG2 encoders are more mature and BD has the space to spare for the extra bandwidth of MPEG2.

      (5) For use as a R/RW disc at home, BD's 66% ex
      • by IntlHarvester ( 11985 ) on Sunday February 26, 2006 @12:12PM (#14804091) Journal
        (1) Who cares.
        (2-4) Possibly true, but the hype circa 2002-2003 didn't reflect this. (eg http://tokyopia.com/tk/archives/000094.php [tokyopia.com])

        (5) True. But what the IT industry really needs is another Syquest or Iomega to come along and define a storage-centric format -- without all the bullshit politics surrounding Hollywood and video game consoles, and the enormous license royalties involved.
        • But what the IT industry really needs is another Syquest or Iomega to come along and define a storage-centric format -- without all the bullshit politics surrounding Hollywood and video game consoles, and the enormous license royalties involved.

          They already have: USB-drives.


          • USB thumb drives are too expensive to be used as mass storage, and aren't really well suited to backups like Zip Disks were or tape drives are. Physical size becomes less of an issue, and longevity (which, actually most writeable optical formats are terrible for)and capacity are key.
        • But what the IT industry really needs is another Syquest or Iomega to come along and define a storage-centric format -- without all the bullshit politics surrounding Hollywood and video game consoles, and the enormous license royalties involved.

          I would love for that to happen, especially since writable DVDs themselves have turned out to be a disappointment with their compatibility issues. But most of Blu-Ray's troubles seem technical in nature. They can't get them function cheaply and reliably. If squee

          • http://www.physorg.com/news9607.html [physorg.com]

            is 300 GB per disc using RED lasers (1 or 2 tb using blue lasers) enough for you?

            yeah, the technology is write once, read many, and not rewritable, but if you look at the cd and dvd market rewritable is more 'niche' use than write once. write once is what is cheap, so it's what people like.

            inphase is definitely the darkhorse for completely usurping both blu-ray and hd-dvd. With 300 GB to play with, you have over 40 MB/second bitrates to play with for video streams. Loss
        • True. But what the IT industry really needs is another Syquest or Iomega to come along and define a storage-centric format -- without all the bullshit politics surrounding Hollywood and video game consoles, and the enormous license royalties involved.

          Amen to this. Is anyone actually working in a removable media storage option (preferrably one not based on sluggish optical RW methods) that has usable quantities of storage (eg, 50-100 GB)? Disk drives have gotten cheap enough that they almost fulfill this,
    • by thedletterman ( 926787 ) <thedletterman@@@hotmail...com> on Sunday February 26, 2006 @12:09PM (#14804082) Homepage
      I mean seriously, with over half a billion households around the world sporting a Playstation 2 or Xbox or both, it's really no doubt in my mind that this format war will wage itself in the multibillion dollar gaming industry. Here's were Microsoft has seriously made the fatal mistake that already lost the war.

      While PS3 will natively support BlueRay (Meaning the games can store upto 50GB of high resolution textures and map data, etc.), the Xbox 360 will not support HDDVD games. This ended the war in my mind. Who the hell is going to spend several hundred dollars for a cumbersome ADDON HD-DVD player for their xbox 360, JUST to watch movies?

      Thinking they could overtake a large chunk of Japanese market by rushing their product out, even a year ahead of the Sony device, was the greatest folly Microsoft could have committed. Had they REALLY supported HDDVD, they would have waited to bring their product to market, and included a HD-DVD player standard.

      BlueRay has won the format wars before they even begun. Look at how profitable Sony made the completely proprietary UMD movie simply because they can profit from their own film distribution division. Neither Microsoft, nor the Toshiba consortium, have this advantange. Thus laying the final nail in the coffin.

      • There's no doubt that 90% of the support for Blu-Ray is not due to technical factors, but instead based on the plan that Sony will be massively subsidizing it with the Playstation 3.

        But, from Microsoft's perspective, the disk battle isn't really that important. In fact it barely makes a difference to them -- they're just involved to fuck shit up.

        For MS, having the XBox360 succeed is much more important than having HD-DVD succeed. And now it looks like XBox360 will be on the market 1.5 years eariler than PS3
      • That is pretty short sighted, imo. If it really comes down to that, do you think the XBox 360 won't bundle hd-dvd?
    • Well, everything I've heard from the start was that HD DVD would be about 15GB/platter, in other words not using standard DVD discs, but with far smaller modifications than Blu-Ray. Then there was some noise about Blu-Ray pulling a fast one and coming out with "Red-Ray" - essentially what HD DVD was promising but on regular DVD discs. Hasn't happened but since HD DVD hasn't gotten to market there was no rush. Now their top priority is to bring down the cost of players, which I expect will happen with the PS
    • FWIW, I work in Amir's division, as Program Manager for Video Encoding.

      Oh, there are still some very substantial differences. Even though both use the same laser diode, Blu-ray uses a much thinner substrate, so the optical head is closer to the actual pits. In theory this means it can have higher data density (15 GB per layer instead of 25 GB per layer). But in practice, this has meant:

      HD DVD can do dual-layer very easily for 30 GB, while Blu-ray still hasn't gotten dual-layer out of the lab, meaning that mass market titles will be single layer 25 GB.

      Blu-ray discs are harder and more expensive to make, for both manufactured, and writable/rewritable.

      Sony has also failed to get a way to actually use any advanced codecs other than MPEG-2 working yet. Which means that for near-future HD titles, we're looking at:

      HD DVD @ 30 GB running VC-1 (you can do all of LOTR:ROTK:EE on a single side of a single disc with that).

      Blu-ray @ 25 GB running MPEG-2 (where anything much over 2 hours can start having some quality degradation compared to the source).

      Also, Java is a relative nightmare for developing movie content versus iHD. It's akin to building a web site completely as an embedded Java applet v. using XHTML. With iHD we can build great stuff, like having picture-in-picture of the director popping up for audio commentary. It's also not clear what the baseline support of Blu-ray players for interactivity is going to be - a number of players look like they might support a small subset of what's possible. With HD DVD, all players will support iHD.

      HD DVD v. Blu-ray isn't unlike XBOX 360 v. PS3. Sure, the PS3 sounds great on paper. But Sony's betting the farm on SO many new technologies, the failure or delay of any one of throws the whole thing off. If they could make either PS3 or Blu-ray work perfectly and on time, that'd be one thing. XBOX 360 and HD DVD are shipping and shipping in a month respectively, and rock. Rocking, shipping products beat rocking paper specs with questionable ability to implement any day of the week, and twice on Sundays.
      • by samkass ( 174571 ) on Sunday February 26, 2006 @04:14PM (#14804916) Homepage Journal
        This is a great summary of the standard Microsoft line. The reality is:

        1. The cost to make the disc is completely irrelevant to the format war. Everyone's going to do both formats, and everyone's going to price them the same to make the consumers happy. In fact, it's likely that any extra profits from HD DVD being cheaper to manufacture will be used to subsidize Blu-Ray ramp-up.

        2. The video codecs are irrelevant to the format war. There's nothing that's fundamentally easier or harder about decoding VC-1 or MPEG4 (which both formats require support for) whether it's coming from either hardware source. Neither has an advantage here.

        3. Java vs. iHD is a point-- it means Blu-Ray is more flexible and HD DVD is easier for beginners to develop for. It will probably remain relevant for 6-12 months until the production studio apps abstract the differences away. In the meantime, you may get some special features in one format but not the other.

        4. PS3 means Blu-Ray wins. Mass production brings down costs faster than anything, and despite HD DVD being released a few months earlier, Blu-Ray will probably hit mass production a year earlier, while HD DVD is still in the early-adopter phase, because of the Playstation 3. Thus, Blu-Ray is likelier to be much cheaper, much faster.

        5. The thinner substrate... I'm not sure how much this matters. The whole "in the lab" argument is pretty facetious, since both formats are still 100% "in the lab" until you can actually buy them. It will be interesting to see what happens with the first-generation writable discs and how they hold up under real-world conditions.
  • Company types (Score:5, Insightful)

    by argoff ( 142580 ) on Sunday February 26, 2006 @11:15AM (#14803899)
    Some companies want to provide products or services that people want, need, and use. Other companies want to ram proprietary crap down peoples throat so they get a lock on the market. Would you like to gess what kind of attitude SONY has after their rootkit scandal, and Microsoft has after their backing of SCO? INHO, we need a non proprietary standard, not a "better" one.
    • we need a non proprietary standard, not a "better" one.

      We already have one, it's called an external harddrive.

      It's not as convenient nor as portable as a disk I'll give you that, but it is here now, it has a much higher rewriteable storage density, it's faster, it has no DRM, it's a generic product (can be bought OEM or retail), it is upgraded every six months or so and finally is backwards compatable. Let's not forget for those of you who like to let a friend "borrow" whatever you can drop the th

    • We're just the consumer. We can only buy what exists.

      It reminds me a lot of the communist system. The Party decided what's good for you and what goods you need. A Trabant has been a good car in the 50s, it still works, why bother giving you anything else? Instead of wasting valuable resources on competing for the customer, they simply made sure the customer can only buy what was offered, so you had no choice. Buy it or do without.

      Now, replace The Party with the cooperation of corporations, and you get the s
  • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Sunday February 26, 2006 @11:16AM (#14803902)
    BTW user:bugmenot, pass:bugmenot works fine

    In Sony's Stumble, the Ghost of Betamax

    AT first glance, Amir Majidimehr does not look like a game-changer in the battle to develop the next generation of DVD players and discs. As the vice president for Windows digital media at Microsoft, he neither steers a Hollywood studio nor controls one of the many consumer electronics giants that are betting billions of dollars on one of the two new formats that promise to play high-definition movies and television shows.

    Yet when he and his team in Redmond, Wash., decided last September to abandon their neutral stance and to support Toshiba and its HD-DVD standard over the Blu-ray format led by Sony, the unexpected change of heart reverberated through the technology industry.

    Suddenly, Toshiba's seemingly quixotic defense of its format had new life. Intel joined Microsoft in backing HD-DVD. Hewlett-Packard withdrew its exclusive support of Blu-ray. This month, another member of the Blu-ray camp, LG Electronics, hedged its bets, too, signing a deal to license Toshiba's technology.

    And earlier this month, one of the main reasons underpinning Microsoft's move to shuck its neutrality the complexity of producing Blu-ray technology led to Sony's acknowledgment that it might delay this spring's scheduled release of its PlayStation 3 game console partly because the needed technology was still being worked out.

    The possible delay and the Blu-ray group's loss of its once-commanding lead are not encouraging developments for Sony in its attempt to revive its electronics group after a series of bungles. PlayStation 3 is crucial to Sony's future, and not only because the latest version of its gaming consoles could generate billions in revenue; the new machines will include disc drives that will turn them into Blu-ray DVD players as well.

    "The PlayStation is more than a game system to them; it's one of their attempts to own the digital living room," said Robert Heiblim, a consultant to electronics companies. "Blu-ray is also critically important to get right. They don't want to be weak in an area they feel they can dominate."

    A DECADE ago, a prospective death match between competing first-generation DVD players was averted when Sony and Philips agreed to back down and join the Toshiba/Warner Brothers side, in exchange for a share of royalties that all DVD player producers pay to the format's creator. Now, no truce seems near, as neither side wants to settle for a small piece of what could be a big electronics success.

    So consumers and retailers may be in for a reprise of the confusing VHS-Betamax showdown of the early 1980's, with Toshiba replacing Matsushita as Sony's adversary. But Sony hopes to have a happier resolution this time. Sony lost the battle two decades ago when its highly regarded Betamax technology was defeated by VHS, a more widely accepted alternative.

    Once again, the differences between the two technologies are not huge. And a growing chorus of critics, including some studio chiefs eager to sell new products as quickly as possible, call the Blu-ray format unnecessarily elaborate and expensive.

    The first HD-DVD machines from Toshiba and the competing Blu-ray players from Sony, Samsung and the other Blu-ray companies will all play movies with crisper pictures, enhanced sound and a bevy of interactive features like pictures within pictures and links to the Internet. The machines will also play older DVD's.

    Technophiles got a preview of the HD-DVD technology on Wednesday at an electronics store on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. As Jessica Simpson and Johnny Knoxville cavorted in the movie "The Dukes of Hazzard," prospective buyers were able to see the difference between a plain old DVD and the high-definition kind. But the main feature was the price. Toshiba will sell two players starting in March; one will cost just $499, half the price of the cheapest Blu-ray machines, the first of which will hit the stores this spring. Samsung's f
  • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Sunday February 26, 2006 @11:16AM (#14803904) Journal
    Didn't the MPAA wanted HD-dvd because it uses more advanced compression codecs which in return would make it harder to pirate over the superior blue-ray?

    I wonder if MS is backing hd-dvd to please the MPAA so they maybe more willing to use MS Media Player store rather than Itunes when Vista comes out?
    • that was the original plan, but as time has gone on both formats are basically identical (same compression, same DRM scheme) the only differences is one isn't limited on space yet (blu-ray) while the other is (hd-dvd)
    • I'm not sure how advanced codecs make it more difficult to pirate. The tools to deal with H.264 and VC-9 are built-into Windows/Mac.

      Also, I don't think the MPAA itself really has a position, most (but not all) of the studios seem to be supporting Blu-Ray.
    • Why is Microsoft supporting hd-dvd?

      I am willing to beleive one of Gate's prediction: Disc based content distribution is dying. I think that in the not so distant future we'll see a lot of content producers distribute content without discs. Microsoft of course wants in on this deal so they are hoping that the Blue Ray vs HD DVD format war will make consumers not to adapt either and instead opt for digital downloads. Typical divide and conquer strategy. It might hurt PS3 sales as well that could provide a bon
      • Disc-based content distribution almost certainly won't die in the next... three years. Network download speeds are way too low, especially if one considers the average connection speed of all consumers, eg. red states too (eg. the content market isn't going to universally ditch physical media if 25% of the market is unable to use anything but physical media).

        In the bandwidth/datacasting game, it's the DSL, cable, (and possibly satellite TV) companies who control everything right now. If/when bandwidth be

        • From MS's perspective, it's probably easier to work with the US "last mile" companies than japanese consumer electronics folks.

          SBC/AT&T is already talking about a special DSL service that will provide 10mbps for SBC Video-On-Demand content, but remain at 1.5mbps for usual Internet stuff. If they go ahead with this plan, they'll need someone to sell them the software, and MS is an obvious choice for that.
        • My ISP now offers 10Mb/s connections. This year, they will be moving everyone to 10Mb/s and charging based on transfer caps instead of connection speed. This is more than ample to deliver DVD-quality H.264. Since I rarely watch a film more than once, I would much prefer DVD-quality on-demand to HD after a day or two's wait while a disk is delivered.
          • Well, most HD-DVD consumers would want HD, not DVD (otherwise, what's the point of the discussion, of killing Blu-Ray? Blu-Ray and downloadable DVD are non-overlapping market niches).

            Also, even if ISP's can offer peak download speeds, it doesn't mean that they're ready for the market to switch to everyone downloading their video content. eg. cable modems in particular share their last-mile bandwidth limits. And further upstream, ISP's aren't necessarily prepared for a 10x jump in bandwidth consumption.

    • Microsoft is supporting HDDVD because HDDVD allows for managed copies. Bluray does not support managed copy.
    • Interesting theory, but wrong on its face. All the codecs in question (MPEG-2, VC-1, H.264) are fully and publically documented. Picking one over the other wouldn't help or hurt piracy.

      Well, it has been suggested that one of the reasons that Blu-ray used MPEG-2 is that they were assuming they'd get the 50 GB dual-layer format working much easier than they had, so they could use the least efficient codec, meaning any rip from the disc would be unweildy in size. Which is really Sony shooting themselves in th
  • Is Microsoft doing everything they can to crush competitors [msversus.org]? That's certainly nothing new.
  • by transami ( 202700 ) on Sunday February 26, 2006 @11:35AM (#14803963) Homepage
    Where are the 3.5" optical disks? The last time sony was successful was way back when they introduced 3.5" floppies. Since then they've had one flop after another. You'd think people would actually learn from experience. 3.5" disks would put some physical incentive behind a format. As it is I suspect most people, like myself, are yawning over these new formats. Am I supposed to be excited about having to buy a $2000 tv and a $500 hd/bd player for a few extra pixels of movies I already have? Please. Adoption rates are going to be dismal.

    • Compact Discs (a.k.a. CDs) are a Sony format... and Sony was also involved in the DVD standard compromise.
      • Well, sort of. Many companies were involved in that. Looks like Philps was the primary driver for consumer products, then Sony came in.

        1978 Philips releases the video disc player
        Sony sells the PCM-1600 and PCM-1 (digital audio processors)
        "Digital Audio Disc Convention" Held in Tokyo, Japan with 35 different manufacturers.
        Philips proposes that a worldwide standard be set.
        Polygram (division of Philips) determined that polycarbonate would be the best material for the CD.
        Decision made for data on a CD to s
      • No it's not, and even though quite a lot of companies were involved in the Compact Disc itself the company officially credited with the invention of the Compact Disc is, has always been and will always be Philips. The Sony-Philips partnership started in 1979, one week after Philips' first demonstration of a CD player (in March 1979), when a Philips delegation went to a conference involving every leading japanese electronics companies (the conference was sponsored by the MITI, the Japanese Ministry of Indust
    • Where are the 3.5" optical disks?

      On PSP [wikipedia.org] (available at Best Buy [bestbuysux.org]). I've also saw 80mm DVD versions of a few movies on sale at Sam's Club around Xmas; I haven't looked since, so I don't know whether it was just a trial balloon, or whether they're available anywhere else.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Where are the 3.5" optical disks?

      What, like 8cm DVDs? They're in the same aisle as writeable CDs and DVDs.
    • You can get very nice HDTVs for $1000 now, and the price is still dropping. The prices for HD disc players aren't expected to remain at $500. Large SD TVs and DVD players started at much higher prices. It's not just about a few extra pixels, it is quite a leap in clarity, about 6x as many pixels, it is the difference between a VGA monitor and Dell's 20" monitor.

      Regarding the disc size, I think your rant really wasn't well-considered. The 8cm format (small discs) basically rips out about 75% of the capac
  • by DerGeist ( 956018 ) on Sunday February 26, 2006 @11:38AM (#14803975)
    Who cares? These new technologies bring better resolution/better sound/whatever. So what? I mean, unless you can afford a 90 inch plasma screen ultra-resolution television set that costs as much as your car, what's the big deal? Watching television won't be at the HD-DVD or Blu-ray quality (yet, anyway) so why would I pay so much extra to watch movies in a better graphical format?

    I think this is why Nintendo is doing so well, they're focusing on new ways to involve the player (in the TV case, the viewer) and new methods of interaction as opposed to the rest of the market, which is saying "BETTER GRAPHICS!" at the top of their lungs, hoping consumers will buy it. I don't care if in Gran Turismo 9 I can see the leather pattern of my car seat or I have reflective glass in my dashboard. Or if I can see droplets of blood when I shoot someone in an FPS. FPS games have lately been linear and monotonous. Run into a room, shoot someone, run into another room, shoot some more people...repeat for 8 hours, finish.

    My point is, the entertainment industry is just peddling more crap hoping they can manufacture a need for it when in reality things have pretty much capped as far as necessary graphical quality (IMHO).

    Oh, and when it doesn't sell because it's hopelessly crippled by DRM and provides no new content or value, they will just blame "those damned pirates." If it does sell, they'll just say "see, DRM makes those pirates helpless! We need more DRM!"


  • by Raul654 ( 453029 ) on Sunday February 26, 2006 @11:45AM (#14803997) Homepage
    One analyst on NPR said that a format war ala Beta vs VHS, which causes confusion in the marketplace, can reduce the market by 90%. That is, 9 out of 10 would-be buyers stay away. So, bearing in mind that (1) both formats are copy protected, (2) to the point where the analog signal is being intentionally degraded, and that (3) a Playstation 3 is going to cost in excess of $800, thus giving the ~$250 Nintendo Revolution a huge advantage -- I can see definite positive outcomes of both formats imploding.
    • Sony HAS to eat some part of that cost, consumers won't pay $800-900 for a console (which is only fair, since Sony is the one making the blunder). Also, most people who have an HD set right now are somewhat early adopters (eg. something like 6% of deployed TVs are HD now) and more likely to buy players no matter what, and hopefully within a year or two, many players will support both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. I think the only positive outcome is for DVD-Peter or DVD-Olaf to break the new encyrption. I know I w
    • Please don't say the ps3 "will" cost over $800. That figure was just some analyst's prediction to sell some advertisements.
    • Don't forget about the $500 of controller modules you'll need to buy in order to play more than one game with the Revolution....
    • How did they analyst explain the explosion in home video sales if the format war was to have shrunk the market by 90%?

      I think the same holds true for recordable DVD media -- did anyone "stay away" for more than 5 minutes from the DVD recordable market? It struck me that the price of DVD writers for PCs and home-video recorders went from fairly expensive to nearly disposable in less than a year.

      My guess is that "average"(1) early adopters may be put off by the appearance of a format war, but the general con
    • The Revolution better not cost over $200. It's only twice as powerful as a Gamecube, thus why should it cost over twice as much?
  • Dell (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wanorris ( 473323 )
    Microsoft and its ally Intel have also convinced Hewlett-Packard to consider making HD-DVD drives for computers. This would give Toshiba an answer to Dell, which remains committed to the Blu-ray format.

    If Vista doesn't ship with support for Blu-Ray, how is Dell going to sell these to people?

    And when did Dell stop following Intel and Microsoft on technology choices?
  • Every major studio except Universal plans to release Blu-ray DVD's, while Toshiba has commitments from only Universal, Warner Brothers and Paramount.

    Blue Ray has a lot more content than HD-DVD. Now that Apple is basically in bed with Disney, both staunch allies of Blue Ray, the said campl will really have to fuck up for HD-DVD to win. Microsoft and HP do not control content. Heck, MS wants to optionaly add an HD-DVD to XBox-360. Not a strong endorsement.

  • Why does it seem that most Slashdotters want BluRay/HD-DVD to fail because of its DRM? Given that DVD has DRM as well, I'd rather have a format which is capable of the highest quality video.
    • Simple. The DRM on BluRay and HD-DVD is worse than the DRM on DVD.
    • Because the HD formats are going to render a large portion of displays obsolete. Between killing component output, and requiring HDCP-compliant displays for full resolution, they're going to break about 90% of the HD sets on the market today.
    • DVD-RRM: Padlock
      BlueRay/HDDVD-DRM: Steel security door

      You could say that people prefer a known evil to an unknown one. Especially if they already know how to get around the known one...

      The difference is also the way the players will work. You'll either need a HD-compatible display (with the "secured" (or rather, obscured) data path between your player and the display, or you won't benefit from the higher resolution because the player will cripple it deliberately.

      It will take a while 'til this system is clea
      • DVD-RRM: Padlock
        BlueRay/HDDVD-DRM: Steel security door

        More like this:

        DVD-Video's CSS DRM: Rusted Twist-tie lock on a cardboard shack guarded by poodle..
        Blu-Ray/HD DVD AACS DRM: Bank vault at Fort Knox guarded by US Marines.

  • by packetmill ( 955023 ) on Sunday February 26, 2006 @12:18PM (#14804111)
    because I find it hard to put money in something with the word "blu" in it.

    I mean, how hard is it to add the e at the end, geniuses. A 2 year old could come up with a better marketing plan.

    Just..never mind.
    • I mean, how hard is it to add the e at the end, geniuses.

      Perhaps if you researched a bit you'd discover that "Blue Ray" is a generic term with respect to trademarks. The original name was to be "Blue Ray" until they discovered you can't trademark it. Thus the removal of the "e" to make a term that can't be pilfered by competitors like Intel's 386, 486, etc.
  • This whole 'battle' between the formats is rediculous. Both formats have evolved to the point where players well end up supporting both, and some movies will be on BluRay while others will be on HD-DVD. Neither are going to 'fail', because the discs for both formats will ship with a DVD compatable layer on them, and will play at standard resolution in normal DVD players.

    The 'battle' was over months ago, and now there is all sorts of mis-speculation in order to give these stupid analysts and reporters someth
  • (1) Remember that Betamax failed, despite slightly better technology, because Sony kept it proprietary. To play or record Betamax tapes, until the very end you had to buy Sony hardware. That let the open VHS market develop commodity recorders and players that enormously outnumbered Sony and undercut it on price.

    The market has room for many levels, from high-end to junk. Sony limited itself to good-to-excellent hardware, while most buyers wanted mid-to-low end. Sony got buried. True, it was mostly in

    • Actually if you want to know which format is going to win just find out whch one the porn industry is going to use. It was porn that got VHS into most homes. And it will be porn that decides which format is used more.

      What most people don't realize is that the new formats won't be in high demand for several more years if then. Until inexpensive HD TVs become available and have had time to end up in most homes there won't be a real need for these new formats. The old formats provide a good enough pict
  • Blu-ray doa? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PrvtBurrito ( 557287 ) on Sunday February 26, 2006 @01:00PM (#14804256)
    So far, there is a lot of evidence that Blu-ray is DOA. HD-DVD is faster to market. HD-DVD players are likely to be more than $500 less expensive than Blu-ray. HD-DVD is cheaper to manufacture. HD-DVD will be backward compatible with DVD with little overhead. The blackhorse in all this is the PS3, but the PS3 looks like it is going to be a *huge* risk for Sony. The depressing part is that this is turning into a Microsoft vs. Sony fight. Choosing between those to companies doesn't sit well with me, given their track record on doing things good for the consumer.
  • Sony's REAL problem (Score:5, Interesting)

    by unitron ( 5733 ) on Sunday February 26, 2006 @01:13PM (#14804298) Homepage Journal
    Sony used to be a hardware company.

    Now Sony is a "content" company with a division that makes hardware.

    A division that can't think first about how to make the hardware great but has to think about (and re-think, and think about it some more) "How can we make sure that this new piece of gear can never, ever, under any circumstances, be used to violate copyright in any conceivable way and any that aren't?".

    While they were doing that instead of designing cool new hardware Apple came out with the MP3 version of the Walkman.

    Because of that the Mini-Disc never became what it could have been.

    Because of the content side worrying about copyright instead of cool hardware they screwed up a bunch of people's computers and convinced many of them and many others to avoid any future purchases of Sony hardware.

    I suspect a hadware only company that worried about copyright about as much as the creators of Betamax did could have already had a DRM-free Blu-Ray product on the market by now.

    • The other half is that their hardware devision is only thinking about, "How can we make sure that this new piece of gear can never, ever, under any circumstances, be used without us making money off of it?"

      Every. Single. Time. that Sony has introduced a proprietary piece of hardware, it has failed miserably. The only exception, to a certain extent, was the PSX... except that by comparison to its competition at the time, it was the open format, with incredibly loose requirements for developers. (as co

      • The industry joke about Sony since they decided to get into content after losing the Betamax war is that:

        "Sony is less than the sum of its parts"

        What's the opposite of synergy? disynergy? The stuff the hardware division does to help the content division hurts hardware more than it helps content, and vise versa.
  • SONY's power in the HT market was unmatched, yet they flopped trying to push BETAMAX. The consumer will decide who wins this one, just as all previous formats. Personally I think the most open format will win, and being on the PC will be a major plus, which HD-DVD should do first since they have such huge ties to MS.

    Also I think most people will support HD-DVD just because they are tired of SONY releasing a totally new proprietary media type every month, what do they have now, like 5 different formats jus
  • by ShyGuy91284 ( 701108 ) on Sunday February 26, 2006 @01:50PM (#14804424)
    We've all been waiting for one format to fail (which probably won't happen for another few years or so), so we will be able to go out and get a player and media without fear it would be useless a year later. This strikes me as a small (as in still very possible and practically equally likely for Sony to take the lead without some miracle taking place) push into HD-DVD's direction as the future format. I hope Blu-Ray will come out on top though, since their capacity would probably be more 1080p friendly (Although I am not sure an HD-DVD cannot hold two hours of 1080p footage). I'm more curious about what the generation after that will push as the reason for upgrading (since Blu-Ray and HD-DVD max out the HDTV/ATSC picture quality, and any more then 7.1 speakers would be too many physical speakers).
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday February 26, 2006 @01:56PM (#14804449) Homepage
    Playing movies on PCs isn't that useful. PC play of HDTV movies will be so locked down that it won't be worth doing. The MPAA would prefer it if you couldn't play movies on PCs at all. Microsoft's position thus really doesn't matter all that much.
    • Microsoft's opinion matters because (a) they're HUGE, and (b) HTPC is getting close to maturity.

      Sooner or later, the system feeding your TV will likely be a purpose-built PC. For many people it already is. Since that device is probably going to run Windows, they have a strong say in it.

      The other thing has nothing to do with the content, and everything to do with the hardware format. When DVD drives become passe', you'll buy a new PC with either HD-DVD or Blu-Ray. If only one of those is plug-and-play, then
  • by TheNetAvenger ( 624455 ) on Sunday February 26, 2006 @03:23PM (#14804707)
    Let's try to be realistic here....

    As I look through the posts I see some good information, the usual tinfoil hat stuff, and some flat out misperceptions or bad assumptions.

    As I usually say, everyone here needs to go read about technology more in detail before they decide for themselves.

    Here is what I know, and I admit I am not an expert by any means.

    1) Both technologies have a lot in common, the main distinction physically is the type of material used in the Discs, and how many layers you can pack into a Disc. Blu-Ray has the seemingly advantage with 'possibly' putting more layers into the Disc; however, HD-DVD has the advantage with a bit more reliable encasing of the layers, not as prone to damage.

    2) Sony and Toshiba are the companies behind each product. However Sony is intent on keeping Blu-ray 100% to themselves, Toshiba is more willing to license out the technology.

    3) HD-DVD started to slump in popularity, as Sony was in the process of upping the bar of more data, etc etc. This started to make Toshiba more flexible with the format, and Sony a bit more arrogant with their format. Strangly, this is also what set the stage for the shift in functions and popularity.

    4) As new proposals or needs were expressed to Toshiba for built-in interface elements, adding more codec support, etc, as more ideas were added to the table, Toshiba was willing to work with them. Sony on the other hand rejected a lot of outside input, the arrogance was working against them.

    5) Microsoft decides a key element of media of the future (especially in relation to their plans for consumer features), is that the content is allowed to be moved from the Media to a storage device, with or without the content protection. (i.e. the protection would stay with the data, not with the Media)

    6) Toshiba was flexible and was willing to allow copying to an alternative storage device, Sony was very much against it. Sony's idea was that the content had to stay on their media, no no to copying it.

    7) So 5 and 6 is where Microsoft said, HD-DVD is the one we will support, and this made a bit of press, it also made the rest of the industry re-evaluate both technologies, and in doing so, a lot of early Blu-Ray supporters found that Sony wasn't willing to give the features a lot of people wanted.

    8) This brings us to the move by other companies. HP is a prime example, as they directly approached Sony, and said, Blu-ray needs to support some important features, Sony said no, and HP said, ok, we can't do an exclusive backing anymore.

    Sony had the technology and should of owned this medium and emerging format war, but they got arrogant, as they did with BetaMax and many other products in their history, and basically lost the game not in technology, but in playing nice with others.

    I don't remember the specifics of the features HP requested from Sony, but it is worth a search for people interested.

    Also for everyone that is saying this war is only about Protection technology, etc. They are a bit right, but Sony is the one screwing the consumer more than Toshiba - and if you don't believe that, 1) Look it up & 2) Remember Sony has a big film division, Toshiba doesn't.

    One of the main features that MS felt was important in the format about copying from the media was actually a pretty smart move on MS's part, and it will benefit consumers (even if you hate MS).

    Microsoft sees a future where all your movies are also in a Jukebox on your computer/server as Audio files are in many people's homes now. You may own the CD, but most people listen to them from a digital archive. Microsoft believes Movies, DVD and HD-DVD content will also evolve to this level, even if not immediately. So the ability to move the movie off the media to a server is pretty important in creating a digital jukebox.

    Microsoft did have an agenda, just not one that is so underhanded, they see Vista as offering Movie storage and Movie servers in homes, a good selling point for
  • I think... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tim Browse ( 9263 ) on Sunday February 26, 2006 @04:42PM (#14805017)
    ...that I will deal with this format war the same way I dealt with the last braindead format war: DVD+R/W and DVD-R/W.

    In other words, until drives are available that read and write both Blu-Ray and HD DVD for less than $100, I'll pass, thanks.

    Of course, I expect dual format drives are 'impossible', but then I seem to remember a lot of bleating about that from manufacturers about DVD+R/W vs DVD-R/W too, and yet dual-layer multi-format burners are like $40 now, so forgive me if I don't believe it this time either.

    If it takes a couple of years that's fine - I certainly don't intend buying any movies in these formats until I know which one has 'won' anyway.

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