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HD DVDís Biggest Challenge Looms Ahead Print E-mail
Thursday, 07 September 2006
Ask anyone who already owns an HD DVD player and a Blu-ray player and you will likely get the same answer as to which format is likely to win a format war that no consumer, AV publication or retailer wanted to see happen, and they will tell you they simply can’t pick a winner. Blu-ray has had some controversy about the chipset and the quality of the overall video output of the one and only $1,000 Samsung player on the market. HD DVD leads in the price category, with Toshiba players at $799 and $499 and an RCA player at $500, but that is about the only place HD DVD leads. Anyone trying to use an HDMI cable to connect their HD DVD player has most likely found painful connectivity issues, requiring an analog video cable for a digital HD video format. Players have needed and greatly benefited from firmware updates from the Internet, but need the user to have the technical savvy to download them, burn them to a DVD on a PC and then install the updates on the player. But believe it or not – this isn’t HD DVD’s biggest problem.
The biggest problem facing HD DVD is the fact that Sony is armed with a Playstation 3 game console that will play Blu-ray movies and HD games, which will be available this holiday selling season. Simply put, Sony can reasonably put enough PS3s on the street in a short enough period of time for them to either force Microsoft and Intel to find a way to get HD DVD into a next-generation Xbox 360 or Nintendo’s upcoming system, or risk losing so much market share in the HD disc game that they could get left in the dust. If that were to happen, the HD DVD camp would have been better off if they’d done a deal with the Blu-ray group when they could in order to avoid this foolish format war that risks leaving Beta-vs.-VHS-weary consumers to say, “Regular DVD is good enough for me!” I personally own both formats and traditional DVD isn’t good enough for anyone with working eyeballs.

Is HD DVD Doomed?
HD DVD is not doomed, but they have a lot of work ahead of them if they want to be a successful format. If they don’t fix their HDMI connectivity issues, coupled with the God-awful workings of the HDCP copy protection, they might as well fold up their tents now. One has to assume that there are some pretty serious amounts of money and resources being directed towards this project to insure that HDMI 1.3 and/or HDCP copy protection actually work in version 1.3. Can you imagine the angry phone calls from studio execs in Hollywood to the tech nerds that allowed the launch to be this questionable?

HD DVD needs to get into game systems, because if Sony Pictures decides to flood the market at holiday time with a few hundred of the 3,000 movies they have in the can (not to mention the 2000 TV shows) that are already in 1080p and waiting to be released in Blu-ray, then HD DVD is once again in real trouble. If movies on Blu-ray start becoming stocking stuffers for a few million Playstation 3 players, the format war will take a turn towards Blu-ray.

Should You Buy an HD Disc Player Today?
The simple fact is that both HD disc formats make a pretty great picture. The picture on HD DVD and Blu-ray is far less compressed and way more vivid than that of HD satellite or digital cable, so if you have $500 to $1,000 that you can afford to spend now and want the best-looking picture money can buy right now, then it is time to make an investment. If waiting for HDMI 1.3 seems like the right thing for you to do in terms of video performance and connectivity, then it is best to wait. If price or availability of titles is an issue for you, then once again, wait to make your move. There are still many battles to be fought in this format war.

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