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HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray December 29, 2005

Posted by danh in Tech, Uncategorized.

There was a recent article on Slashdot regarding Microsoft’s support for the HD-DVD standard.  The article, from EE Times, insinuates MSFT’s support of this standard was, in fact, a trojan horse, and its true intention was to lengthen the format war in order to scuttle Sony’s upcoming PS3 release. 

Bill G. has gone on record as saying that his gripe with Blu-Ray was that it is was consumer  unfriendly (imagine – this coming from MS) due to its rigid copy protection scheme.  Personally, I think it has more to do with the fact that Blu-Ray basically forces the Java JVM to be included on every device from PC to DVD-players which is why MSFT is fighting it so hard.  HD-DVD uses pretty much the same copy protection technology as Blu-Ray, AACS, so it can’t be argued to be any more consumer friendly in that regard. If Blu-Ray does succeed as a standard, it will accomplish a feat that .NET is unlikely to ever achieve, a universal (not just PC and servers – but also devices) object oriented VM which is truly platform agnostic.  That would be a major coup and dramatically shift the balance back to Java.  Despite the technical (arguably) superiority of the .NET Framework, it has never been and probably never will be cross-platformed.

That said, I still think that HD-DVD makes the more logical choice for 2-gen DVD technology. Technology tends to move in small increments (look at the failure of Itanium vs. x64) and because HD-DVD requires a smaller cost of upgrade, it makes the more logical choice.  Imagine you’re a low margin DVD supplier, which choice would you make? HD-DVD which offers almost all the features of Blu-Ray while costing much less in upgrade cost, or Blu-Ray which offers marginally better technology at much higher price point. 

One other thought is that consumer dictates the market.  Consumers are anti-DRM. Why pay for something you can get for free?  Even the US consumers, who are much more progressive than the rest of the world regarding licensing and royalties, would probably not pay for that DVD given the opportunity.  If the next gen DRM technology is truly successful at preventing pirating (I truly doubt), that success will lead to its downfall.  Consumers are not ready to give up the freedom, flexibility, and low cost of DVDs for a more cumbersome, unfriendly, and restrictive technology which promises marginal improvements.  I haven’t heard too much outcry from my friends about the low video qualities of DVDs.

Rather than Moore’s law, I think there’s Danh’s Law (I doubt I’m the first guy to say this but I’ll stake claim to it anyway): Technology advances only as much as consumer demands it.  Look at our current stall at 3.8 Ghz CPUs.  One view is that this is caused by reaching the temperature/density threshold for chip manufacturing.  Another interpretation is that we have reached the price/performance/demand threshold that consumers are comfortable with and the incremental performance just doesn’t justify the price increase.  For example, CPU cooling technology can push our Ghz threshold but that is hardly catching on because the demand just isn’t there. 

My guess is that DVD is pretty much very near that price/performance/demand threshold.  If the Sony plays it wrong and push the price and inconvenience factor of Blu-Ray to the point where it lowers that threshold, consumers will just stay with DVDs or move to some other technology.  Bill G. has said that this whole format war may be meaningless as other technology as broadband streaming become mature.  I agree.



1. EvilSpudBoy - December 29, 2005

Blue lasers are pretty….Ack! My eye!

For consumer video, I think manufacturers will want to be able to sell a single disk which is playable in conventional DVD players and also HD DVD players. Well maybe I’m wrong, it would be better for consumers to be able to buy a dvd that is compatable with both players, but Hollywood is always looking for ways to sell you the same movie again and again. Still I think it might stimulate sales if a consumer knew they could buy a dvd and play it in their regular DVD player now and then later when they upgrade to a new HD player, they could watch the same CD in stunning HD, it could help stimulate sales of both movies and players.

But anyway, I’ve heard that Blu-Ray has the advantage when it comes to being able to manufacture hybrid disks like that. Whether that will be an advantage in the marketplace.

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