Blu-ray vs HD DVD
Blu-ray and HD-DVD are two formats that competed to become the next generation high-definition DVD format to replace standard DVD. Yet again, a format war left the poor confused consumer stuck with a seemingly impossible choice. This time, however, consumers were wary of being burnt and neither format was particularly well supported until Blu-ray was declared the winner early in 2008.
The table below outlines the main features of each format. Features with a yellow background are the same for both formats. Note this this table was current as of February 2008, which was the last time it really mattered.
|Capacity:||15GB (single layer), 30GB (dual layer). Prototypes have been demonstrated up to 45GB, the theoretical limit is 60GB.||25GB (single layer), 50GB (dual layer). Prototypes have been demonstrated up to 100GB, the theoretical limit is 200GB.|
|Compression:||MPEG-2, AVC MPEG-4 and VC-1||MPEG-2, AVC MPEG-4 and VC-1|
|Backers:||Toshiba, NEC, Sanyo, Memory-Tech, Microsoft. NBC Universal, Viacom (Paramount and Dreamworks).||Sony, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, LG Electronics, Matsushita (Panasonic), Mitsubishi, Philips, Pioneer, Samsung, Sharp, TDK, Dell and Thomson Multimedia. Disney, Fox, MGM, Warner Bros.|
|Compatibility:||Backwards-compatible with standard DVD.||Backwards-compatible with standard DVD.|
|Advantages:|| First to market.
Backed by Microsoft.
Cheaper to produce in the short term.
|Much greater storage capacity.
Re-writable discs can record and playback at the same time.
Sony owns Columbia Pictures and recently bought MGM. It also has PlayStation 3 on it's side, which plays Blu-Ray DVDs.
- The corporate landscape changed several times throughout the war, with companies shifting loyalties without warning.
- HD-DVD movies were initially higher-quality but this gap was eliminated when Blu-ray changed to the same compression format.
- This debate wasn't just about DVDs for video, it was also about DVDs as computer storage disks. In this arena capacity is a critical factor — the more the better. The argument that "size doesn't matter as long as a movie fits on" isn't a good one in our opinion.
- There was a lot of misinformation circulating about both formats, largely due to outdated reports being interpreted as current. Many commentators and bloggers were also accused of overstating gains and losses in the war, in order to boost their preferred format.
Why Did Blu-ray Win the War?
- Blu-ray had the trump card of 40% more capacity. HD DVD had nothing special to counter with.
- Playstation3 had a built-in Blu-ray drive, which boosted not only the actual uptake of Blu-ray but also the perceived uptake since all PS3 units were counted as Blu-ray players. XBox supported HD-DVD but only with an optional extra drive that never attracted a lot of support.
- Blu-ray was far more attractive for computer users.
- Blu-ray had better studio backing. The final straw came when Warner Bros announced in January 2008 that it would be dropping HD-DVD support. The timing of this announcement, just before the influential International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, was a bitter additional blow and the HD-DVD forum cancelled a planned press conference at the show. Many commentators saw this as the turning point.
- Following the Warner Bros announcement, a number of high-profile retailers dropped HD-DVD support. In one week alone, Wal-Mart and online rental company Netflix both announced plans to support Blu-ray exclusively. By this stage the demise of HD-DVD was inevitable.
It is worth noting that, like the VHS/Betamax war, this war was not really decided on the technical merits of each format. It is certainly arguable that the best format won but it is widely believed that other factors such as marketing and company politics were more important.
Carl Gressum, a senior analyst at London technology consultancy firm Ovum, was reported by CNN as saying "They didn't manage to bring on board some of the China vendors, they didn't bring (on board) the retailers, they've failed to develop in the European and Asian markets".