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HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray - Is It All in the Name? 208

Z asks: "As most of you are aware, the dawn of the nex-gen format wars is fully upon us. We have all talked about it until we are Blu in the face, but there is one simple, yet important topic I have yet to see discussed. What is in a name? Now, bear with me for a second here while I explain. As much as we geeks would like to believe it, we are not going to be the ones who decide which format wins out in the end; consumers are. Now, we all know people hate change. Users already know what DVD is, and most would like to think they understand HD. But Blu-Ray? Your average Joe only wants one thing when it comes to new technology, a feeling of comfort and understanding; something I think Blu-Ray is going to have a hard time giving them. I can't help but wonder, is HD-DVD going to win out simply because people are going to be more familiar with the name? "
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HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray - Is It All in the Name?

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  • by Flimzy ( 657419 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @09:50PM (#15201861)
    I think it will have a lot more to do with publicity than with the name itself. And the name "HD-DVD" is a good start, but it's not enough. If Blu-Ray makes a bigger splash on TV, in the newspapers, online, etc, then it could win.

    It's also possible that having a name tied into an existing standard (namely DVD in this case) could have a negative effect, especially if Blu-Ray (or its supports) spin things that way. ("Why would you want to stick with something as old as DVDs when Blu-Ray is all-new, all-improved?")

  • Consider also... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Gyga ( 873992 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @09:54PM (#15201876)
    ...that the average joe hates acroynms, my friends which know nothing about this are more likely to pick blu-ray merely because it doesn't have acronyms. I think people prefer things they can say, blue-ray vs h-d-d-v-d.
  • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @09:57PM (#15201894)
    Joe Sixpack, you know, the guy who buys the Hemi, or puts the "Type R" sticker on his Honda Civic, will by the Blu-Ray DVD, because..well, it's "Blue". Blue is better, neater, more high tech, with less distortion, jitter, wow, and flutter. I mean, think of it, red has a long wavelength, blue shorter. So it must be higher definition.

    Seriously. This is what you'll hear from the droid at Best Buy.

    "HD-DVD" sounds old and busted, a hack to make DVD "HD".
    "Blu-Ray" is an entirely new technology, and as everyone knows, unless you have the latest trinket, you're a dinosaur, obsolete, gay, etc.

    I may sound flip, but you get the idea. People buy spin, and marketing crap. They don't buy technology, or purchase on any rational basis.
  • Yeah, right. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mad_Rain ( 674268 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @09:57PM (#15201895) Journal
    Names have everything to do with how popular a format becomes. "Betamax" or "VHS"?

    Nevermind that absolutely obscure music format, MP3.
  • by Pantero Blanco ( 792776 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @09:57PM (#15201897)
    There's one major difference between this and the two situations you cite.

    The format that DVD replaced was ancient. The gap between VHS and DVD was huge, and DVD offered many features that VHS did not. And I'm not sure MP3 replaced an old technology so much as it filled a void.

    There's not that much of a gap between DVD and Blu-ray/HD-DVD.
  • by lurker4hire ( 449306 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:33PM (#15202037) Homepage
    It's not about how quick new formats are adopted, but rather about what they bring to the table for the consumer.

    MP3's seperated music from the media it was stored on, and was adopted widely as a result. There was significant movement towards the new format because it solved several real annoyances with the then dominant format (CD's), and hasn't been replaced by technically superior formats because none of them do anything other than incrementally upgrade the improvements brought to the table by MP3's. Some (DRM) have even tried to regress and reinstate the problems (from a consumers view) that caused them to move away from CD in the first place.

    DVD's offered a whole mess of significant improvements over VHS, much beyond simple improvements in picture quality (although of course it did offer that). Chapter selection, extras, menus, media portability (both physical and between the PC and TV), all of these are significant to the experience of using the damned thing, even if all anyone ever mentions is the better picture. Neither Blu-Ray or HD-DVD offers anything other than an incremental technical improvement over a huge installed base for DVD, so both will have significant difficulties establishing anything like a true consumer standard (IE: your mother owns one).

    In fact, I doubt either will supplant DVD. Hell, if you ask consumers if DVD is already HD 99% will say hell yeah, because that's what they've been marketed as for the last 5 years. Maybe the words Hi-def weren't used, but the marketing for DVD's has emphasized improved picture quality. Combine that with the sheer inertia of the amount of DVD playing options available, and the way people expect to move a disc from their player at home to the one for the kids in the car to the laptop on a business trip, I doubt either hi-def media formats will win.

    The true next video format will be to DVD what MP3 was to CD, maybe H.264 or some evolution of it. I think there'll be a place for a high capacity media format, perhaps HD-DVD or Blu-Ray, but nobody'll be buying movies on it.

  • by Babbster ( 107076 ) <> on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:33PM (#15202038) Homepage
    People buy spin, and marketing crap. They don't buy technology, or purchase on any rational basis.

    Oh, most definitely. That's why I think Laserdisc made such huge waves, all but replacing VHS for precorded movies. I mean, damn, discs were high-tech and lasers have always been awesome.

    Listen, if you want to know what the general public will buy, I'll tell you: They'll buy the HD format that a) has the most movies, b) gets the best demos over the next year while they're wandering around Circuit City/Best Buy/etc., c) is supported by their friends and family (my parents, for example, would go for whatever format I recommended to them), and most importantly d) is the cheapest.

    Of course, it's all moot if combo players reach decent prices. At that point, nobody but the A/V geeks will care about the differences...
  • by bunbuntheminilop ( 935594 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:36PM (#15202053)
    As much as we geeks would like to believe it, we are not going to be the ones who decide which format wins out in the end; consumers are.

    Apparently geekdom does not have ANY say in whether a format is accepted. This statement has given me a headache. OOOOhhh, my head!

  • by billcopc ( 196330 ) <> on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:37PM (#15202054) Homepage
    MP3 took forever to become a consumer reality. I started encoding and playing MP3 on my computer in late 1995. I first got my hands on the crappy, crappy MPTrip discman in 2000. It took another 3 years before a half-decent MP3 deck was sold for car audio. And no, the insanely expensive EMPEG did not pass as half-decent to me, poor poor sound quality. I had designed a better player myself, using a cheap PC and a luxury sound card. It took a really long time for the masses to clue in to MP3.

    VHS vs DVD was different, because it took the entertainment industry ages to put out DVDs. For the most part, new releases had simultaneous VHS and DVD available, but all the classics, the movies we really wanted, took years before being released. The price was also not quite right, since the same movie in VHS was usually a good $5 to $8 cheaper than the DVD. Consumers might not know the intricate technical details, but they certainly aren't stupid. A movie is a movie is a movie, doesn't matter if it's VHS, DVD or High-Def, you're not getting "more". Nor does it have a significant cost difference to the producer, they're all cut from the same masters, and up until a couple years ago, most people's TV sets could hardly show a difference between good VHS and DVD.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:43PM (#15202069)
    As somebody who works retail, I know this first hand: CONSUMERS ARE IDIOTS!!! How many average Joes out there know what a rootkit is? How many of those people knew that Sony installed one on their computer? Do you have any idea how many idiots I have coming into my store asking for a Sony TV or a Sony car stereo or a Sony computer? TONS!!! They don't care that the Sony equipment we have is the worst stuff we carry. They care that it has that name recognition. So if every Bluray player had a Sony emblem on it, they'd buy it simply because it was Sony. Remember, just because you read Slashdot every day, that doesn't mean that everyone else has. I doubt many of the consumers out there will know that their Blu-ray player can be disabled remotely...they're just not smart enough to care.
  • by Caeda ( 669118 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:48PM (#15202092)
    Haych-Dey??? Where the heck are you from? One hell of an accent... The rest of us will probably try saying aye-ch dee
  • Want some advice? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:52PM (#15202109) Journal
    What is in a name? Now, bear with me for a second here while I explain. As much as we geeks would like to believe it, we are not going to be the ones who decide which format wins out in the end; consumers are. Now, we all know people hate change. Users already know what DVD is, and most would like to think they understand HD. But Blu-Ray? Your average Joe only wants one thing when it comes to new technology, a feeling of comfort and understanding

    If you want to know what I think -- rather than expending energy worrying which DVD format wins out, you'd do better learning to stop talking like that.

    For heaven's sake, you're not Claude freaking Shannon; you're some guy buying a device to play Spiderman 2. (You also may or not be the guy who thought "Digital" was the appropriate category for this topic but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt on that one...) Could you possibly dial the condescension back a bit?

  • Re:HD-DVD will win (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DoubleRing ( 908390 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:25PM (#15202245)
    I don't think it's so much liking acronyms as for timing, usage, etc. Betamax failed because of Sony's unwillingness to let other manufacturers from using it. Minidisk and CD never had a format war, plus MiniDisk came years late. Once again Sony was too controlling of the format. LaserDisk came too early (imagine that) and was REALLY big. DVD "won" because the entire content industry agreed not to have a format war, so you could think of DVD as the successor of LaserDisk, not its competitor. If Sony's hardware department can manage not to get sniped by it's content arm, Blu-Ray has an excellent chance at victory, although due to the fact that the physical specs on both formats are the same, I'd say dual format players will be the winner.
  • TV Series Sales (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:23AM (#15202476)
    I think that the killer app for HD-DVD and/or Blue-Ray has little to do with their specs, nor does it have to do with the HD content that might be sold on them.

    I think it has to do with the fact that TV series in current resolutions are a poor fit for DVD technology. Almost every movie fits fine in a double-sided dual-layer disc, but TV series need 5-8 DVDs per season. Vendors could save significantly on materials and packaging costs if this could be cut to one disc per season.

    I think whichever format backers buy the rights to re-release a lot of TV shows will win. If neither capture this, then yeah perhaps both will fail.
  • by drama ( 32059 ) * on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @12:48AM (#15202562) Homepage
    I'm just hoping HD-DVD doesn't win out, but I'm in wait-and-see mode right now.

    Ultimately it depends on when people are ready and willing to ditch the hundreds of DVD players they bought in the last 3-4 years. Over the last 3-4 years, HD sets started getting cheap, DVD players got ultra cheap, people got over the fact that they can't record on their video media anymore (though, that's changing), and all-in-one surround systems became popular because the media is now all the same size.

    A 3 month release headstart for HD-DVD isn't gonna get people to automatically throw out their existing systems that their wives just let them spend their entertainment budget on. Those are the people with the rear-projection sets. Anyone willing to spend twice as much for a plasma or an LCD they can hang on the wall is going to look at the fact that first gen HD-DVD doesn't do 1080p out of the box and Blu Ray does. The early adopters are the ones that are gonna care about picture quality. Everyone else is more likely going to care about spending $450 on a HTIB versus $500 on a single player. The salesman will likely get better commission on that sale anyways cuz it's an easier sell and all he has to say is that it does HDMI just like the other single player set.

    As for the studios, I'd think they'd be more willing to release on Blu Ray than on HD-DVD cuz it seems to have more anti-piracy annoyances^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hprotections. Additionally, larger movie size means content that is less easy to compress and get across the net on your lowly 768k DSL upload. Then there's the addition of Java (the tech that just won't die) and the potential for net access from Blu Ray devices and you've got content that can download fresh movie trailer ads.

    I think the fact that EVERYONE has a DVD player that works NOW will allow enough of a break to let the price differential between HD-DVD and Blu Ray to shrink. The number of new buyers that will get an HD set and mates it to a first gen HD-DVD immediately will be marginal. Once time enough has passed to get people buying the new hardware, the price gap will have faded and then it's all about hardware availability which seems to be largely behind Blu Ray. From the way things look, the majority of the studios and the majority of manufacturers are behind Blu Ray.

    Sony may have screwed up in the past, but not like everyone thinks they did. MiniDisc had it's place, it's niche. For the longest time, we had S/PDIF on our consumer appliances even when there was an "official" digital audio spec out there named AES/EBU. They have PLENTY of successes to offset their PR blunders. I know Sony has screwed up in the past, but I think they got the timing right on this one.
  • A 3rd option (Score:4, Insightful)

    by desmondmonster ( 863068 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @01:21AM (#15202651) Homepage
    What if both formats fail miserably?

    Recent digital formats have snowed the market because they offered obvious advantages over existing technologies that had been around for years. CDs and DVDs overtook magnetic tapes because they were more durable, had better resolution, (generally) offered more storage space, and gave you the option of skipping directly to a specific song or movie scene. Plus, magnetic tape media had been on the market for several years, so most consumers felt they had gotten their money's worth out of their old hardware. Many of the discussions surrounding HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray seem to assume that consumers will necessarily pick one. But why should they pick either? The only advantages these formats offer over current DVDs is slightly better video resolution (no novel access features or rugged construction) and more storage space for.....10 extra director's commentaries? I suppose certain video games would enjoy having a 50GB media, but honestly, who's going to make a game that takes up fifty gigabytes?

    Whether or not Blu-Ray's horizontal line count is superior to HD-DVD's is irrelevant. What's relevant is how superior it is to the current standard - 480i on DVD. I think that the difference is negligible, unless you have equipment costing thousands of dollars. Even on old televisions DVDs were an obvious improvement over VHS tapes, which were literally wearing out from time and use. HD-CDs sound wonderful, but only on the right hardware. And very few people are willing to spend an extra $5000 on speakers just to hear greater clarity of the 10khz frequency. The costs far outweigh the benefits.

    Plus, I just bought a DVD player three years ago! Suddenly it's obsolete? I don't think so - the T-1000 still looks pretty sweet on DVD, and my discs are in great shape. Asking me to pay an extra $300 for a player, plus $30 for a new movie, plus $2000 for a new tv, plus $100 for the cables needed to even hook up HD components, just doesn't justify a really nice solar flare.

    Does anyone else remember that one of the early, great selling points of DVDs was that you didn't have to rewind them? Wasn't that awesome? And now we take it for granted.

  • Re:yes and no (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Duds ( 100634 ) <dudley@enter[ ] ['spa' in gap]> on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @04:39AM (#15203162) Homepage Journal
    Like "N-Gage"
  • by way2trivial ( 601132 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @04:57AM (#15203198) Homepage Journal
    I mean, everyone loves that name.. and it's really taken off hasn't it? ory.php?storyid=629 []
    Awareness rose most significantly in the US, where for the first time over 50 percent of the respondents recognized the Bluetooth brand: over the course of the study, awareness rose from just 22 percent in 2003 to 41 percent in 2004 and then to 58 percent in 2005.

    How long has BT been around now? if Blu-Ray takes that long, it's dead in the water...
  • by kalidasa ( 577403 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @08:27AM (#15203725) Journal
    I wouldn't describe VHS as "ancient." VHS was introduced in 1976 (and Beta in 1975). DVD was released in 1996/1997. Twenty years later. Blu-Ray will be introduced in 2006/2007 - ten years after DVD, and thirty after VHS. I don't think that "twice as long before" is quite the same as "ancient". However, in my experience, the VHS adoption rate was *much* slower than DVD adoption rate, especially for commercial movies: VHS really didn't become that popular until the mid-80s, and a lot of people didn't get VCRs until the 90s; but DVD only took about 4 or five years to substantially replace DVD (they stopped selling VHS movies in most places, except for kid's programming and online vendors, about 3 or 4 years ago, though of course they are still used as time-shifting devices and for old video tapes).

    I think the important difference is that VHS created the market for owning movies (I remember a discussion as late as 1991 or so with a fellow who couldn't understand why someone would want to own a copy of a movie, since "you only watch them once" - even then, many people thought of VCRs primarily as time-shifting devices). DVD was moving into a market that already existed, and so consumers were ready to "upgrade" to a better format. LD didn't do as well because it wasn't perceived as an upgrade - true, the picture quality was better, but the disks were more expensive, too big, and you had to flip them over halfway through the movie.

    So the rest of your argument (the feature difference between DVD and VHS) is very sound: in the end, I think it was the smaller size of the DVD, the fact that you didn't have to rewind DVDs, and the relative resilience of the format that killed VHS, even though DVD was not recordable before VHS started to drop off.

    The question is whether the video quality of the formats is high enough to convince people to upgrade. The smart thing would have been to combine the formats (as was done with CDs) and to make sure that new players were released at about the same price point as high-quality DVD players, with DVD and CD built-in. HD-DVD and Blu-Ray don't have that big a window: they need to make a lot of money before increases in bandwidth make physical media delivery of video content obsolete - once it's as easy to download a full-quality 1080p video from an online store as it is to download an album from iTunes today, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD will be reduced to the status of the floppy disk.

  • by TheJediGeek ( 903350 ) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @10:30AM (#15204472)
    The problem with MP3 is that most consumers still don't know what an MP3 is.
    All they know is that the iPod thingies can play lots and lots of music.
    A couple years ago I was working at Radio Shack (just as a part-time second job) and people would routinely come in for iPods. When we were out of them I'd say we have other MP3 players in stock. The response I'd always get is, "What's an MP3 player?"

    Consumers aren't really as savvy as we hope they are. DVD has been out FOREVER and there are STILL people that don't call it that. It's really more about marketing the name than what the name is. Blu-Ray could conceivably catch on simply because the name is easier to say and if Sony marketed it properly.
    But, since Sony has NEVER marketed a new technology properly, HD-DVD will probably still end up ahead.

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant