Practical Technology

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Bye-Bye HD-DVD

The arguments over which HD format was better started the moment they rolled off the factory floor. Now, they no longer matter. Blu-Ray has won, HD-DVD has lost and now there’s little more than waiting for the HD-DVD house of cards to finish falling down.

What finally determined HD-DVD fate wasn’t which one was technically better. Although, as far as I was concerned it was always Blu-Ray, which can hold 25-GBs—5.5 to 8.5 hours of HD video—as compared to HD-DVD’s maximum of 15GBs or 3.5 to just over 5 hours.

No, two things killed HD-DVD. The first lead directly to the other. From the start, more movie studios offered videos in Blu-Ray. This meant that there were more movie choices. So it was that even though HD-DVD players were cheaper, in the beginning much cheaper, than Blu-Ray players people slowly surely started buying more Blu-Ray discs

By December 2006, Blu-Ray discs started outselling HD. Fast forward to the week of Black Friday 2007, and Nielsen VideoScan reported that 72.6% of HD video discs sold were Blu-Ray.

You can see where this is going and so did Warner Brothers. In December, Warner decided to stop supporting both formats and to put all its chips behind Blu-Ray. While Universal is insisting it will keep supporting HD-DVD, I’m going to make a very easy prediction: by 2008 HD-DVD will be as dead as laser-disc.

Indeed, you could argue, as does Michael Bay, director of such films as Transformers and Armageddon, that it hadn’t been for Microsoft paying for studios to support the inferior format; HD-DVD might already be dead. Bay wrote on his blog, “Microsoft wants both formats to fail so they can be heroes and make the world move to digital downloads. That is the dirty secret no one is talking about. That is why Microsoft is handing out $100 million dollar checks to studios just embrace the HD DVD and not the leading, and superior Blu Ray. They want confusion in the market until they perfect the digital downloads.”

The market has decided though and there’s no longer any confusion. Now, it’s just a matter of months before HD-DVD folds for good. I believe that Internet download and streaming will eventually replace Blu-Ray as well.

That day, however, remains years away. And, come that day, Apple and not Microsoft will be the winner. Indeed, I won’t be surprised if Steve Jobs announces at next week’s MacWorld in San Francisco that the next generation of Apple TV will include a Blu-Ray player.

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