The Force is with Blue

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Conflicts That Redefined Tech

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Highs and Blues of DVDs

In the Star Wars epic 'space opera,' man-to-man battles are fought with lightsabers. The Jedi knights use Blue sabers. The folks on the dark side of the Force, they use Red. After protracted battles, the good guys mostly win. The Blue Ray wins.

This month, Toshiba officially pulled out of the HD-DVD business, acknowledging defeat to Sony's Blu-Ray Disc format.

I had expected Blu-Ray's victory, but not so early in 2008, and not so suddenly and decisively-with the key rival pulling out of the race.

That makes Sony and its friends the victor of the top entertainment format war of this generation. Sony had lost a big war in the 1970s and 1980s-its Betacam was clearly superior technology, but it lost out to VHS in the world's markets. It learnt its lessons. This is of course a blow for Toshiba, Microsoft (which backed the HD-DVD format for its Xbox 360 game console, unlike Sony which shipped a Blu-Ray player with the PS/3), Intel, and others.

One of the reasons for HD-DVD's defeat is the sheer power and weight of the combine behind Blu-Ray, which includes original CD pioneers Sony and Philips, and also Apple, Dell, HP, LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp and others).

Prasanto K Roy, president, ICT Publishing Group, CyberMedia

They led a two-pronged battle: One, superior technology, with a higher capacity drive: 50 GB versus 30 GB. But more importantly, they won the content war.

MGM, Twentieth Century Fox, Walt Disney, and of course, Sony Pictures, had all announced support for Blu-Ray. The last nail in the HD-DVD coffin was when film studio Warner Bros recently announced exclusive support for Blu-Ray for its movies. Till that time, HD-DVD (with cheaper players and discs) was selling well; but that announcement crashed HD-DVD sales. HD-DVD had only Paramount and Universal Studios on its side.

The last barrier to the next-generation optical disc is down. With the format decided, consumers will finally be pulling out their wallets, and OEM manufacturers will go in, in a big way, for Blu-Ray. We can expect to see affordable Blu-Ray players on the shelves in India in the second quarter of 2008, and by the same time in HP and Dell PCs and laptops, game consoles, and more.

The impact of this will be felt on content across the board by mid-2008-on HDTV-ready movies, large games and multimedia content, and more, in more affordable, easier to use packages.
In India, especially, where there is no HDTV content on cable or satellite, Blu-Ray will be a key entertainment source for HDTV owners, and will also spur sales of HDTV-ready LCD and plasma sets.

Several players showed maturity in this protracted format war. Both (Blu-Ray and HD-DVD) associations did try to avoid a format war, but talks broke down in 2005. Hewlett-Packard made an attempt to broker peace between the associations, suggesting that Blu-Ray adopt HDi instead of the Java solution it was set on (HDi is Microsoft's implementation of the content interactivity layer in HD-DVD, used in the Xbox 360 HD-DVD as well as standalone players.) The Blu-Ray Disc group did not agree.

And, of course, Toshiba. I admire Toshiba for acknowledging defeat and bowing out, when it could have dragged on the battle for another year. The technologies have benefited from the competition, but consumers will ultimately benefit from a market not divided by two standards.

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