Speculation has been growing that Sony
The formats in this next-generation DVD technology are actually more similar than distinct. Both use a blue-laser diode instead of the current red laser to read data. With a shorter wavelength, the blue laser can read more data. They are also backwards compatible, meaning that both formats can be used to play existing DVDs -- though older players will not be able to read next-gen DVDs. Both also support existing video and audio codecs.
The differences in the formats come in how the DVDs are manufactured and how much information they can hold. An advantage of the HD-DVD format is that it is based on current manufacturing technologies so that production will not require any significant expenditures for equipment. Blu-ray, on the other hand, will require manufacturers to spend considerable sums of money up front. Yet once this commitment has been made, the cost factor disappears.
And that's where the other difference between the formats comes into play. Blu-ray DVDs can hold significantly more data than HD-DVDs, some 50 gigabytes on a dual-layer disc vs. only 30 gigabytes for high-density DVDs. While the gap may not seem too significant, the disparity becomes apparent when you realize that a typical movie, with video and multiple audio, and the extras that movie producers put on discs, will push up against the limits of HD-DVD capacity. While it may be sufficient for today's movies, it might not be enough for tomorrow's content.
Two possible outcomes to the format battle have been proffered. Manufacturers could produce a single player with a dual deck that would play both formats, or, as Sony has hinted, they could merge the two formats into a mutually compatible single standard. Neither outcome seems particularly likely.
Both sides have powerful interests aligned with them. On the HD-DVD side, the DVD forum includes NEC and Toshiba, plus movie studios such as Viacom's
Sony did seem to backpedal from its conciliatory position when a company spokesman in Tokyo last week said the only compromise it would accept would be HD-DVD proponents accepting Blu-ray as the standard. Perhaps it was just bluster, as DVD Forum companies are expecting to launch product very soon while Blu-ray is not expected until the end of this year, if not next year. That early launch might be enough to give HD-DVD an edge.
Regardless of the eventual winner in the format wars, consumers will benefit from the enhanced capacity they will get. Read more on the battle for your next DVD with these bits of related Foolish thinking:
- Goodbye to DVDs
- Hollywood Batters Blu-Ray
- Apple Enters Blu-ray Fray
- Investment Play in Blu-Ray?
- Hooray for Blu-Ray!
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Fool contributor Rich Duprey thinks he looks cool in Blu-Blocker sunglasses. He does not own any of the stocks mentioned in the article.