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The Blu-ray/HD-DVD Format Battle


Blu-ray and HD-DVD each aim to be the next-generation replacement for the ubiquitous data and video DVD format. The capacity of current DVD technology is quickly being outstripped, and Blu-ray and HD-DVD offer much greater capacity than DVD, with promises of even more.

Virtually every optical disk vendor, including Lite-On, Phillips, Pioneer, Sony and Toshiba, is producing or planning Blu-ray or HD-DVD products, but the real players are the associations behind the standards, the DVD Forum and the Blu-ray Disc Association. Various third-party players such as movie studios, Microsoft and Apple are in the fray as well.

Blue-ray and HD-DVD can provide huge capacity in DVD-sized packages, but infighting and two competing formats are leaving customers confused about both video and data formats. Enterprises should wait until a clear winner emerges or until dual-format drives become common.

The DVD-VIDEO and CD formats were some of the most successful technologies ever to hit the market. They made it into nearly every home and quickly supplanted their tape-based predecessors. They demonstrated that tech industry cooperation can be a huge boon to enterprises and consumers alike. Then the DVD Forum, the consortium responsible for the DVD format, fractured over that format. It spawned DVD-R while an opposing association spawned DVD+R. The split created a huge mess for customers, but that was solved by drives that can read both formats.

After the DVD format debacle, it seemed that there was no way the industry could split again. Yet here we are with two competing next-generation formats: HD-DVD from the DVD Forum and Blu-ray from the Blu-ray Disc Association. These two groups are guilty of putting first-to-market status and profit ahead of their customers.

Why does it matter that there are two formats? Competition is healthy, right? It matters because companies will have to choose between the two, and a format war means there is the possibility of picking the Betamax equivalent.

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