Blu-ray claims it's poised to win DVD format battle

With Samsung set to release the first Blu-ray disk player next month, the Blu-ray Disk Association is confident that it will prevail in the next-generation format battle with rival HD-DVD. Blu-ray representatives said consumers need to look no further than the companies supporting each format to know which format will ultimately win.

“We have just about everybody in the consumer electronics industry supporting Blu-ray at this point,” Andy Parsons, senior vice president of product development for Pioneer, told Macworld. “These are all the brands that are associated with new technologies like Sony, Panasonic, Philips, Pioneer, LG, Samsung and others.”

Supporters of the HD-DVD format include Toshiba, NEC, Intel and Microsoft, but Parsons said when it comes to getting players into peoples homes Blu-ray has the power of the consumer electronics companies behind them.

Looking at what will ultimately drive adoption of a particular format, Parsons says the “killer app” for this format battle will be no different than in the past — content.

“The killer app for this technology is high-definition motion picture distribution — that is the underlying premise that drives everything else,” said Parsons.

With content as king, both Blu-ray and HD-DVD went after the motion picture studios to publish content in their respective formats. While there were wins for both sides, ultimately Blu-ray came out on top.

“We have some advantages because there is a fairly significant content gap between Blu-ray and HD-DVD in that we have seven Hollywood studios backing Blu-ray, while HD-DVD has three — two of the three studios they have are also supporting Blu-ray,” said Parsons.

This, according to Blu-ray, is what will determine the winning format. As studios release movies in the Blu-ray format consumers will want to buy players that will play those movies.

“We think that of all the factors that will be used as indicators as to which format will prevail in the long run, that is number one,” said Parsons. “From a consumers point of view this is all about content.”

While Samsung will be the first to release a Blu-ray disk player, it will be followed up quickly with other releases. Parsons said that Sony, Panasonic and Pioneer all have plans to release players in the coming months. Prices for the first generation players are expected to be in the $1000-$1500 range.

Both HD-DVD and Blu-ray use the same video codes in their formats — MPEG-2, VC1 and the Apple supported H.264. However, there is quite a difference in the capacities of the disks.

Blu-ray is able to store 25GB per layer, so for a dual layer disk it is able store a total of 50GB. HD-DVD, on the other hand, can store 15GB per layer for a total of 30GB on a dual layer disk.

Parsons believes Blu-ray’s capacity advantage won’t be realized until they are widely used in IT and other computing applications. For consumers, Blu-ray is relying on what it says is an overwhelming support from the movie and consumer electronics industries.

“When you’re a consumer looking at this and you see this enormous array of products that will be available from a hardware point of view, as well as the content side, it makes it pretty clear which format is likely to prevail,” said Parsons.

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