The format war waging between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray to be the dominant media standard for content in high definition has effectively ended with Blu-ray emerging dominant. Which high-definition technology is better has been the subject of intense debate in Hollywood and electronics circles for years. HD DVD players have been much cheaper than Blu-ray machines, but Blu-ray discs have more storage space and more advanced protections against piracy. Both versions deliver sharp resolution. Blu-Ray has 25 GB capacity (50 GB for dual-layer) and is more expensive. HD-DVD has 15 GB (30GB for dual layer) and is cheaper than Blu-Ray.
Consumers were inundated with marketing from both sides during the 2007 holiday season. Wal-Mart, as part of a temporary promotion, offered Toshiba players for under $100. Sony and its retailing partners, including Best Buy, responded by dropping prices on Blu-ray players, although not to the same level. Blu-ray players can now be purchased for under $300.
Still, Blu-ray was emerging as a front-runner as early as August. Blu-ray titles have sharply outsold HD DVD offerings — by as much 2 to 1, according to some analysts — and some retailers like Target started stocking only Blu-ray players. Blockbuster said last summer that it would carry Blu-ray exclusively. In January 2008, Netflix announced that it was moving exclusively to Blu-ray for its DVD-rental business. In February 2008, Wal-Mart made a similar announcement, saying that it would carry Blu-ray discs and hardware exclusively. Soon thereafter, Toshiba pulled the plug on HD DVD and announced that it would stop manufacturing HD DVD players. Microsoft followed suit and announced that it will stop making HD DVD players for its Xbox 360 video game system.
edit Adoption and Support
edit Initial Supporters
- HD-DVD was exclusively endorsed by Toshiba, HP, NEC, Sanyo, Microsoft, RCA, Kenwood, Intel, and Memory-Tech Corporation. The HD DVD format was also non-exclusively supported by Hitachi Maxell, LG, Lite On, Onkyo, Meridan, Samsung and Alpine. Technology companies supporting Blu-Ray include Apple, Dell, Panasonic, Hitachi, LG, Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, and Thomson.
- Studios exclusively supporting Blu-Ray included Sony Pictures Entertainment and MGM (both owned by Sony) as well as Disney, 20th Century Fox, and Lionsgate. It was non-exclusively supported by Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema. On the other hand, HD DVD was exclusively backed by Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures (including Paramount Vantage, Nickelodeon Movies, MTV Films, DreamWorks Pictures and DreamWorks Animation), The Weinstein Company (including Dimension Films), and First Look Studios. Non-exclusive backers of HD DVD include HBO, Studio Canal and Image Entertainment.
- HD DVD was currently exclusively backed by several adult-movie/pornography studios/publishers, including Wicked Pictures, Pink Visual, Bang Bros, Digital Playground Inc. and ClubJenna Inc. (which was acquired by Playboy Enterprises); and is also non-exclusively backed by Vivid Entertainment.
edit Defections and Later Developments
- In early 2008, Warner Brothers announced that while they will continue to release content in both formats until May 2008, they will move to the Blu-ray format exclusively after that. With this announcement, according to the New York Times, Blu-ray would control roughly 70% of the content market.
- Warner Brothers' decision was followed by announcements from Netflix, Blockbuster and Wal-Mart to support Blu-ray exclusively. Most companies cited Blu-ray's popularity with consumers (as reflected by higher sales) as the reason behind their decision.
- In February 2008, Toshiba announced that it would stop manufacturing HD DVD players.
- A few hours after Toshiba's announcement, Universal Pictures and Universal Studios withdrew their support for HD DVD and switched to the Blu-ray camp.
- Microsoft announced on Feb 24, 2008 that it will stop making HD DVD players for its Xbox 360 video game system .
A pictorial representation of the marketshare can be found on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:HighDefShare.svg
edit Technical Differences
Since the Blu-ray disc has a tighter track pitch (the single thread of data that spirals from the inside of the disc all the way out), it can hold more pits (microscopic 0s and 1s) on the same size disc as HD DVD even with a laser of the same wavelength. The differing track pitch of the Blu-ray disc makes its pickup apertures differ, however—0.65 for HD DVD vs. 0.85 for Blu-ray—thus also making the two pickups technically incompatible despite using lasers of the same type.
HD DVD discs also have a different surface layer (the clear plastic layer on the surface of the data—what you get fingerprints and scratches on) from Blu-ray discs. HD DVD use a 0.6 mm-thick surface layer, the same as DVD, while Blu-ray has a much smaller 0.1mm layer to help enable the laser to focus with that 0.85 aperture. This leads to higher costs for Blu-Ray discs because:
- A special hard coating must also be applied to Blu-ray discs, so their surface is sufficiently resilient enough to protect the data a mere 0.1mm beneath.
- Blu-ray discs do not share the same surface layer thickness of regular DVDs, so costly production facilities must be modified or replaced in order to produce the discs.
After the successful CD format, Sony and Philips worked together again to create a high-density disc called MMCD (MultiMedia Compact Disc). However, Toshiba's competing Super Density Disc (SD) had the vast majority of backers at the time, such as Hitachi, Matsushita (Panasonic), Mitsubishi, Pioneer, Thomson, and Time Warner. IBM president Lou Gerstner brokered a deal between the 2 factions and the result was a new format: DVD.
Sony and Philips later started work on the next generation format - the Professional Disc for DATA (aka PDD or ProDATA), which was based on an optical disc system Sony had already been developing in the side. This eventually became the Blu-ray disc. Toshiba had also started work on a next gen system, the Advanced Optical Disc, which eventually evolved into the HD DVD.
- The Java platform is mandatory on Blu-ray as it's the standard for menus/multimedia (i.e. all Blu-ray systems must support JVM)
- Though Microsoft has not officially sided with either format, it has a number of long-standing IP cross-licensing deals with Toshiba. HD DVD systems will run Windows CE; the standard is currently the only next-gen optical standard with announced support in Longhorn, and an HD DVD version of the Xbox 360 is rumored for the future.
- Even though Apple sits on the Blu-ray Board of Directors, its DVD Studio Pro software supports authoring HD DVD media.
- In late 2007, Sony's CEO Sir Howard Stringer acknowledged that the high-definition format war between Blu-ray and HD DVD has indeed been caught in a stalemate.