Our DVDs are rubbish – that’s the undiluted version of the marketing we are going to start hearing over the next 18 months. Next generation technologies will offer larger capacities, crisper images, sharper sound and once again we’ll have to choose between two competing formats: Blu-ray (pictured below) and HD DVD.
In IT developer land (a mystical place of silicon hills and water cooled rivers) it is already causing the biggest divisions since VHS and Betamax. Basically, it’s time to choose sides: are you a Cavalier or Roundhead? Dog or cat lover? Geordie or Mackem?
As for the loose metaphors I’ll let you decide which analogy fits which technology, but more importantly Blu-ray has scored a massive backer this week in the shape of current industry belle Apple.
Under the terms of the agreement Apple is now a member of the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA), an increasingly powerful group which already includes Dell, HP, Hitachi, LG, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, TDK, Thomson, Twentieth Century Fox and Walt Disney. Yeah, it’s doing well!
HD-DVD is not out of it altogether, however, as it counts Toshiba, NEC, Sanyo, New Line, Paramount, Universal and Warner Bros amongst its backers (the last four alone are worth 45 per cent of the major studios' DVD output in the US). Vitally, HD DVD is also backwards compatible with existing DVD players.
That said, Blu-ray is undoubtedly the more technologically advanced format and often labels the accusation that HD DVD is little more than a supersized DVD. Blu-ray can also hold 25GB of data on a disk or 50GB on dual layer (current DVDs hold 4.7GB); HD DVD maxes out at 15GB and 30GB respectively.
In addition, it looks at this stage like Blu-ray will be able to increase its data layers from two to four by 2007 and has made noises about eventually moving to eight. Whatever HD DVD’s expansion capabilities are (four layer has been mooted), so far its been worryingly quiet by comparison.
Will Apple’s decision to pin it’s colours (white = colour?) to Blu-ray’s mast prove decisive? Well, it is certainly one of the biggest developments to date in the ongoing next-gen format war and signals a definite shift in power.
Ultimately, despite all the multinational corporate shuffling at this stage, it will be the public who decides the winner by which we buy. The power is in our hands and that is a comforting thought as we wander aimlessly around our nearest video stores re-purchasing our entire movie collections AGAIN.