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Blu-Ray Trumps HD-DVD. So What?


In a surprise move at the annual Consumer Electronics Show which took place last month, Warner Brothers announced they would be dropping their support of the HD-DVD format in favor of Blu-Ray. Toshiba, the chief manufacturer of HD-DVD has been in a heated battle for format dominance with Sony‘s Blu-Ray. The “format war” has been hotly contested for months with major studios and producers in the entertainment industry backing one format or the other. Warner Brothers had been supporting both formats for the duration of the format war, but made the decision to move to blu-ray exclusively this month. According to chairman and CEO of Warner Brothers, Barry Meyer, the only party being hurt by the format war was the consumer. This was a major factor in the decision at Warner Brothers. For Mr. Meyer’s comments see this post on Wired Magazine’s blog.

So what does this mean for consumers? On the one hand it has an immediate economic impact as Blu-ray is significantly more expensive. Blu-ray is also a new technology. The name is derived from the laser used to read the disc. Instead of the standard red beam used in DVD and HD-DVD players the blu-ray player uses a higher intensity blue laser. The discs themselves are a new technology, capable of storing much larger amounts of information than either the standard DVD or HD-DVD formats. That said, the new technology used in the blu-ray player will still play the standard DVDs consumers have been accumulating for years.

The positioning of Blu-Ray as the format of choice begs the question, “So what?” Consumers have good reason for a degree of cynicism as movies and television are more and more becoming available for download, even in high-definition formats. That said the online content doesn’t have the high-end bit rate of either HD-DVD or Blu-Ray, and is restricted to a resolution of 720p, so the quality of online media isn’t quite as good…yet. As more and more content becomes available for download more consumers may move away from movies on removable media in favor of downloading their favorite movies and television shows. Sony should savor the taste of victory, because it may be short-lived.

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