October 03, 2005

New DVD Format Wars: Here We Go Again

Will history repeat itself with HD DVD vs. Blu-ray?

What is it about video technology that inspires two competing standards to put consumers smack in the middle? First there was VHS vs. Betamax, with VHS the undisputed winner. While Betamax produced superior image quality, VHS's longer play/record time won out. Regardless, having a single standard made it easy on manufacturers and consumers alike, and the home video market exploded.

More recently, there was DVD-RW and DVD+RW. For a time, the "-" and "+" formats were mutually exclusive. The two "standards" caused all kinds of compatibility issues, at least until drive manufacturers figured out how to include both formats in one device. No clear winner, though, just cohabitation. But it certainly seems to work.

So, just when we finally get to a DVD happy place, two new standards for high definition, high capacity DVDs are threatening to splinter the market. Again.

The two new formats are HD DVD and Blu-ray. Both use blue lasers instead of the red ones used in traditional DVD and CD drives. Due to blue light's shorter wavelength, they can pack more information on a disc.

Each format has different (and in some cases, the same) backers in the industry: Sony, Intel, Microsoft, Walt Disney, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, and others have entered the fray. News.com has done a great job of covering the evolving market turns and explaining the whole mess with the following articles posted over the last couple of days:

High Definition TV (HDTV) and Enhanced Definition TV (EDTV) "standards" are confusing enough. Perhaps the drive manufacturers will find a way to either combine the blue laser DVD standards or at least get them to cohabitate. Right now, both camps are fairly polarized and spewing propaganda, so it could be awhile. Until then, at least you'll know what's coming our way in 2006.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard