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One, Two, Three, Four, Viiv, Once I Caught a Fish a Live!

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So, Sony has announced that Play Station 3 won’t be launched until November 2006, a year later than Xbox 360. At the very least this must be inconvenient for Sony, but PS3 is a ten-year product so in 2008 or 2009 when the dust has settled and the Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony consoles are well established we’ll all have forgotten about the details of which console came first.

The galling part of the PS3 announcement is that it keeps the whole wretched matter of Blu-ray in the limelight as Sony claims that it is unable to release PS3 until the AACS protection system has been finalised. This hasn’t prevented it from announcing that Blu-ray movies will start to ship in May and then the US will get the BDP-S1 Blu-ray player in July. In the meantime The HD DVD camp will start shipping movies in April, so if you’re desperate to watch The Matrix or Million Dollar Baby in 1080p High Definition then you’re in luck.

Or at least you’re in luck provided you have a High Definition TV that can display the content, which presumably means that it supports the HDCP protection system and has an HDMI connector so you can plug in your next-generation DVD player. It is a complete mystery to me how any of the existing ‘HD Ready’ TVs can have the correct hardware when AACS is still work in progress. Presumably we’re all supposed to pop down to Dixons to hand over £2,000 during 2006 so we can start replacing our current library of DVDs with High Definition content but let’s face it; early adopters have a terrible history of being screwed over by the manufacturers while they are in the process of thrashing out their standards.

As things stand HD DVD has a 30GB capacity for a dual layer disc, and as it has a theoretical maximum of four layers it may squeak up to 60GB in the future. Blu-ray discs use a thinner data layer than HD DVD and can cram 25GB into each layer so we can expect the first dual-layer Blu-ray discs to be 50GB in capacity. Sony predicts that it can increase the number of layers from two to four by 2007 and then to eight layers so in time we’ll get 200GB on a single disc. One of the snags is that HD DVD can use existing DVD fabrication plant but Blu-ray can’t, requiring new equipment. Thus is follows that HD DVD discs are cheaper to make, while Blu-ray is the more appealing technology.

Samsung is ready to launch its SH-B022 BD burner which will cost about US$500 and early reports suggest that it takes about 45 minutes to burn 25GB at 2x BD speed.This sounds great for data storage, once the cost has dropped to a reasonable level, but of course what we all want is a super-multi-wonder drive that supports every CD and DVD format. It would need to have both red and blue lasers, sell for under £100, connect to my PC with a SATA II connection, and I suppose I’d want it to be able to play back DVDs that have HDCP protection, but truth be told I’m not really bothered about that.

In essence the drive should play and burn every format of disc (with the possible exception of DVD-RAM) and the prime requirement is that the drive should work to my advantage instead of merely being a system that allows me to play back the ridiculously expensive, ridiculously protected movie content that comes out of Hollywood.

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