Student: Ronald Huereca
Topic: Bluray vs. HD-DVD
Today’s DVDs generate approximately fifty percent of a film’s overall revenue. With a growth of forty-four percent in sales in 2003, DVD sales are stronger than ever. Unfortunately, industry analysts predict that by 2008, DVD sales growth will slow to seven percent. In addition, by 2008 it is expected that half of the United States could own a high-definition (HD) television. To capitalize on slowing DVD sales and a growth in HD devices, the DVD industry is looking for new HD technology. Two such technologies are the Blu-ray and HD-DVD formats. Both technologies have advantages and disadvantages, but only one will go on to be the DVD successor (Grover, 2004).
As more and more consumers move to high-definition (HD) plasma and LCD televisions, their tolerance for low-resolution DVDs will significantly diminish. DVDs on the market currently hold only 4.7 gigabytes (GB) of data. The maximum resolution achieved on a DVD is 720-by-480. With a high-definition resolution of 1,920-by-1,080, DVDs just do not compare. Fortunately, two technologies, Blu-ray and HD-DVD, promise to transform the DVD from low-resolution to a high-definition format. Both of these technologies utilize blue lasers instead of the traditional red lasers to achieve higher resolution. Although promising, both technologies have their advantages and disadvantages (Kaplan, 2004).
The technology Blu-ray and HD-DVD use is based on using blue lasers instead of red ones. Blue lasers have a wavelength of 405 nanometers while red lasers have a wavelength of 650. The shorter wavelength of blue lasers allows the laser to focus on a smaller spot on the DVD enabling more storage. More storage is necessary because HD video can easily approach 200 megabytes (MB) per minute. High-definition DVDs are expected to hold about two hours of HD video (Kaplan, 2004).
Blu-ray technology, deriving its name from the blue optical ray used to read the DVDs, is poised to replace the traditional low-resolution DVD (Blu-ray.com). Blu-ray, developed by the Blu-ray Disc Association, is supported by thirteen companies including Dell, HP, Hitachi, Philips, Pioneer, and Sony (Kaplan, 2004). The physical format for Blu-ray Discs is complete for the read-only versions, enabling manufactures to prepare to produce the discs. In addition, rewritable Blu-ray Discs and recorders are already for sale in Japan from Panasonic and Sony (Shim, 2004).
Blu-ray technology is very promising because it can hold up to ten times more than a regular DVD. Using dual layers, a Blu-ray Disc can hold as much as 50GB. Blu-ray’s plans for copy protection call for a standard more secure than CSS, which is the current copy protection for DVDs (Kaplan, 2004). Furthermore, there are already plans for computer variations of Blu-ray including BD-ROM, BD-RW, and BD-R. With its 50GB capacity, Blu-ray can help Hollywood studios dwarf the current features on DVDs, as well as help video game manufacturers make more elaborate games (Labriola, 2004).
Blu-ray is not without its disadvantages, however. Blu-ray has been criticized for jumping to a completely new technology in relation to traditional DVDs. Blu-ray uses a new structure of disc, creating the need for a new manufacturing process. Having to adopt new or modify existing manufacturing plants will drive up the prices of Blu-ray Discs initially. Blu-ray supporters say the increase in price is worth it because the increased storage will be better for consumers in the end. However, several producers of movies have said that cost is the driving factor for choosing a new format (HD-DVD).
On the other hand, HD-DVD is also a promising technology that could replace current DVDs. HD-DVD was developed by Toshiba and NEC with price in mind. Backed by big players such as Microsoft, HD-DVD is a huge competitor to the Blu-ray format (Blu-ray.com). HD-DVD products will not hit store shelves until sometime in 2005 (Labriola, 2004).
HD-DVDs, like the Blu-ray format, hold significantly more information than current DVDs. The HD-DVD read-only format can hold 15GB on its single-layer format and 30GB on its double-layer format (Blu-ray.com). A significant advantage over Blu-ray is that HD-DVDs can be produced using existing manufacturing facilities. By simply swapping out a disc-stamping tool, existing factories can be converted to produce HD-DVDs. It is expected that HD-DVDs will cost about ten percent more than regular DVDs initially, but will go down as volume increases. Microsoft, which has good standing in Hollywood, is a key backer in the HD-DVD format. Microsoft said it would support the HD-DVD format in its future release of Longhorn in 2006 (Kaplan, 2004). Furthermore, Japan’s largest DVD distributor, Pony Canyon, stated it would begin releasing DVDs in the HD-DVD format in 2005 (Gruenwedel, 2004).
HD-DVDs disadvantages lie in its storage capabilities and lack of industry backing. HD-DVDs can store a maximum of 30GB, while Blu-ray can store approximately 50GB. HD-DVD technology has been criticized as shortsighted because it would hamper DVDs in the area of extended movies, special features, and commentaries. Another disadvantage is HD-DVD lacks the extensive industry backing that Blu-ray does. HD-DVD is backed by big names such as Microsoft, Toshiba, and NEC. In contrast, Blu-ray is backed by thirteen large corporations such as Dell and Sony. Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, a major Hollywood studio, has also stated that it would release all home video products in the Blu-ray format by the end of 2005 (Gruenwedel, 2004).
Significance of article
The current DVD has minimal storage and sales will eventually slow to seven percent growth in 2008. With HD video on the rise, consumers will grow less tolerant to low-resolution DVDs and will opt for better options. Two technologies, HD-DVD and Blu-ray, promise to deliver high definition video into consumers’ homes as soon as 2005. Unfortunately, what will occur between the two formats will be a format war rivaling the arrival of Betamax and VHS in the early 80s. With HD-DVD promising lower prices and Blu-ray delivering greater storage, it will ultimately be up to the consumer which format will prevail.
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