Wednesday, February 20, 2008

High Definition War: And The Winner Is...Blu-Ray!

The high-definition format wars is over and the a clear winner has emerged: The Blu-Ray format championed by Sony and Samsung. The final straw that decides the winner was an announcement by Toshiba, one of the pioneers of the HD-DVD format that it will no longer develop, manufacture and market its HD-DVD players anymore.

The factors:

1. Even though HD-DVD is initially superior in terms of picture quality, cheaper prices and no region encoding, Blu-Ray has a better marketing strategy. Although initially the video quality of Blu-Ray discs suffered badly, it has improved tremendously. The fault lies in the poor MPEG-2 encoding and they have recently improved the encoding methods and deliberately give extra spacing to the discs, for instance 50GB instead of 40GB for better picture quality.

2. HD-DVD was launched with a finished tech, resulting in perception that not many potential for improvements. This was in contrast to Blu-Ray that has an unfinished tech and people see the potential of vast improvements in the future.

3. Sony's Playstation 3 is also a Blu-Ray player as well. When the console was launched out in the market, the amount of sales against HD-DVD players was staggering. 10 million units of Blu-Ray against 1 million units of HD-DVD players sold. Although HD-DVD is supported by XBOX 360, the problem of the requirement of getting an external drive to connect together is one of the faults in marketing strategies.

4. In late January, two studios, Warner Brothers and its sister studio Newline had declared that they would be shipping HD titles in Blu-Ray format exclusively from June 2008 having selling titles in both formats to gauge the preference of format.

5. Last week, movie renting companies like Netflix, Best Buy, Target, Blockbuster and Wal-Mart have declared of renting titles exclusively in Blu-Ray.

6. For computer users, a Blu-Ray drive has been launched and selling in the market.

Even though Blu-Ray is the clear winner in the format technology, the problem is the most players are not equipped with the new version of the firmware called Profile 2.0 which allows BD-Live, the equivalent of HD-DVD's IME - In-Movie Experience. The only player that utilizes Profile 2.0 is Playstation 3 right now as it also allows firmware updating capabilities instantly.

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