Blu-Ray or HD DVD?

“There’s a battle brewing in the living room,” Paul Thurrott writes for Connect Home. “Having failed to reach a compromise, major consumer electronics firms are now racing to ship incompatible next-generation DVD players and content. But this time, customers—the real people who will buy these products—stand to lose from the competition. The problem is that one of these formats might ultimately be orphaned. In the meantime, you’re going to have to figure out which side of the fence you want to be on.”

“Blu-Ray or HD-DVD? I assume you know that I’m referring to Blu-ray and HD-DVD, both of which are being offered up by competing industry associations as the logical successor to the wildly popular DVD format. When it was introduced in 1996, DVD was big stuff, with 720×480 resolution, 4.7GB of storage space per disc, and support for multichannel surround sound. What a difference a decade makes! Today, those numbers all look paltry when you consider HDTV resolutions (up to 1920×1200) and storage requirements. Clearly, something had to give,” Thurrott writes. “Blu-ray backers say their format will be capable of 200GB of storage per disc, although the first generation will actually max out at 100GB. HD-DVD, by comparison, is capable of about 60GB of storage per disc, but again the first generation will come in much lower, maxing out at about 30GB in the first generation. Both formats will natively support 16:9 widescreen HDTV formats such as 720i, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p, which, when combined with the huge storage capacities, make them perfect for delivering HD movie content.”

“If you sample the various major movie studios, you’ll see that some studios are supporting both Blu-ray and HD-DVD, and others are supporting just one or the other. Sony, a major Blu-ray backer and co-creator of the format, is naturally supporting only that format and not HD-DVD—which means that HD-DVD users won’t be able to purchase or rent Sony’s movies unless they also get a Blu-ray device. That’s silly. So far, only three major studios have elected to support HD-DVD—Paramount, Universal, and Warner Bros. —although that support will likely improve quickly, as the first HD-DVD devices and content are due later this month. Meanwhile, all the major studios except for Universal will support Blu-ray, even though those devices won’t arrive until May at the earliest,” Thurrott writes. “Many technical analysts say that such a thing is unlikely for a few years, but I’m holding out hope for hybrid devices that will play both Blu-ray and HD-DVD content. In the meantime, I’ll be skipping Blu-ray for the short term and going with HD-DVD for my PCs, Xbox 360, and home theater. I have little doubt that Blu-ray will take off eventually, if only for its stellar storage capacities. But HD-DVD is the blue-collar (ahem) solution to the next-generation DVD problem. Sorry, Sony.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced on March 10, 2005 that Apple was “pleased to join the Blu-ray Disc Association board as part of our efforts to drive consumer adoption of HD.” Thurrott’s storage numbers seem a bit off; he doesn’t explain his source(s), but he might be speculating on future increases in data layers. According to The Blu-ray Disc Association’s website, HD DVD’s pre-recorded capacities are 15 GB for a single layer disc, or 30 GB for a double layer disc. Blu-ray Disc provides 67% more capacity per layer at 25 GB for a single layer and 50GB for a double layer disc. Why settle for “blue collar” (see: Windows) when you can have a much better solution? It’s par for the course that Apple backs the superior format while Microsoft supports the inferior one.

It bears noting that Apple is playing both sides of the fence in a wait and see mode. According to a press release from April 17, 2005, “Apple is committed to both emerging high definition DVD standards—Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD. Apple is an active member of the DVD Forum which developed the HD DVD standard, and last month joined the Board of Directors of the Blu-ray Disc Association.”

[UPDATE: 1:47pm EST: Added to the take. Thanks to various readers below for the reminder.]

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Related articles:
Broadcom announces decoder chip that plays both Blu-ray and HD DVD – January 03, 2006
Forrester Research: Apple-backed Blu-ray will win over Microsoft-backed HD DVD – October 20, 2005
BusinessWeek: ‘it looks as if HD DVD’s days are numbered’ – October 07, 2005
China to develop own as-yet-unnamed DVD format; Blu-ray vs. HD DVD vs ? – October 07, 2005
Paramount’s decision gives Blu-ray slight lead over HD DVD in next gen DVD format war – October 04, 2005
Record set straight on Blu-ray Disc Association’s superior high definition format – September 29, 2005
Microsoft backs cheaper, less sophisticated, lower capacity HD DVD over Apple-backed Blu-ray format – September 27, 2005
Twentieth Century Fox joins Apple, Dell, HP, others to support Blu-ray Disc format – July 29, 2005
Poll shows Apple-backed Blu-ray preferred by consumers over HD DVD for next-gen DVD standard – July 14, 2005
Microsoft allies with Toshiba on HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray Disc backers Apple and Sony – June 27, 2005
Apple joins Blu-ray Disc Association Board of Directors – March 10, 2005


  1. Drive mechanisms that support both technologies will be the answer.

    It won’t be an integrated laser/actuator, they will put in two separate actuator assemblies. LG is already on this. It costs the hardware manufacturer more in assembly and licensing but it will give the one who does it a huge market advantage and all others will soon follow.

    If the Beta/VHS tech war happened today, dual deck machines would be the answer, Beta drive for quality and VHS for long record time.

    This whole DVD tech war is not about superior technology, it is about greed and which company will get on the receiving end of the royalty stream.

    Sony and Phillips taught the industry this with the first (very successful) widespread digital optical media technology, CD. Now the others are after this huge residual bonus (stream of cash from hardware and media sales). Sony is very well positioned as the principle developer of Blu-Ray.

    May the best tech win. All consumers LOSE.

  2. Don’t be so quick to embrace Sony’s heavily DRM’d Blu-Ray technology. Remember… It wasn’t that long ago that this site was advocating a boycott of Sony products due to the corporations dodgy DRM practices.

    It’s not just about the capacity – Clearly, Blu-Ray has more gigs per disc, but apparently, HD-DVD has a much more liberal approach to what you can and can not record onto, and rip from their disks than Sony does. Sony has all but killed the concept of “fair use” copy and backup with Blu-Ray.

    BTW – Apple is a member of the HD DVD group as well as the Blu-Ray group. Apple is backing both technologies.

  3. If you read the specs. its pretty clear that BR is going to edge out HD-DVD in the short run, and then again in the long run.

    I really dislike the fact that it seems to be becoming another platform-war issue. MS is incredibly arrogant and stubborn, and always wants to make sure that they’re on the opposite side of any issue that isn’t going to make them look like they invented it.

  4. My guess is that if it were up to the mass consumer they would go with HD-DVD and not Blue-Ray.

    Why? HD-DVD has DVD and HD in the name. The average consumers knows what that means or a vague idea.

    How many have any idea what Blue-Ray is? Could that be something that shoots out of a ray gun?

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