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Both will fail, but why Blu-ray will fail HARDER

November 7th, 2007

OK, everyone probably knows that many many moons ago, while others were discussing which of the new HD-DVD formats would win, I wrote an article sounding the death knell for BOTH. What I didn’t realize was the extent to which each format would participate in this death in a sort of digital Hara-Kiri that was drawn out over months of consumer confusion and self-congratulatory press releases.

The first major mistake occurred when Toshiba’s initial players, the HD-A1 and HD-XA1 were both released with a maximum resolution of 1080i. That’s right, 1080i. The world’s first next generation DVD format couldn’t even output 1080p at 8-bit color just as the rapidly-becoming-standard 1080p resolution was sweeping the consumer electronics industry. Mind you, this was January of 2006, not some long ago date that preceded the whole 1080p resolution.

But that mistake, that grand and mindnumbingly stupid error, was nothing compared to how “Sony’s” Blu-ray format has shot itself repeatedly in the foot.

How so, you ask? Well, it’s quite simple. While Toshiba missed the initial resolution mark, Sony decided it would be cool to release its players with a moving target specification. Not only do all players released up until present day not have the ability to handle dual streams of video simultaneously (think picture-in-picture Director’s commentary, etc) they don’t include the ability to connect to the Internet for software updates and additional bonus feature material.

This doesn’t sound so bad until you realize that you will ultimately buy software down the road whose features won’t work with your current player. You can also extrapolate the fact that Blu-ray titles cannot, currently, have as many potential features as otherwise identical HD DVDs. 300 is the perfect example of this. Released in both formats, the HD DVD version has features Blu-ray can only wistfully wait to be made available.

If Apple hates you, then Sony at least thinks you are a real idiot. The constant blitzkrieg-style ad campaigns prove that.

Let’s review:

  • Entry-level Blu-ray players now cost 2x-3x more than HD DVD players. Sony has not yet budged from its “rock bottom” $399 pricing, even for the holidays, according to most recent sources. HD DVD players are selling at $198 and are periodically hitting shelves during special sales events at $99.
  • According to our reviews, the entry level BD players have very mediocre upscaling quality for standard definition DVDs. Entry-level HD DVD players fare much better. Neither are perfect, but based on our numbers it’s likely that even a Wal-mart special will outscore the Sony BDP-S300.
  • Blu-ray discs cost significantly more to manufacture, meaning that the studios make more money – all things considered – when selling HD DVD titles to the public.
  • HD DVD is a completed spec, Blu-ray is a “we’re not done yet, gimme just a few more months and maybe we’ll get it completed” spec. Let me repeat that: Blu-ray does NOT offer the same features as HD DVD and the HD DVD features have been ready since Day 1. There is currently no player on the market (as of this writing, though they are coming out prior to the holidays) that handles dual stream video and BD profile 1.1. For some odd reason the TV commercials don’t tell you this.
  • There are no Blu-ray players with Internet connectivity (BD-Live) on the market today or planned for this holiday season. They may show up sometime during 2008… The hybrid players will presumably only allow Interconnectivity for the HD DVD discs. As a result, not too many studios are building web-interactivity and dual stream video functionality (all BD-Live and Profile 1.1 features) into their software releases.

Am I bashing Blu-ray. At this point, yes I am. But only because I am fed up with the intensive marketing that goes on every day while thousands of people have no idea of the truth behind the format. All things considered there aren’t many differences between the two formats. Minor bit-rate levels aside, both handle the same formats and play the same great audio and video.

But the full HD DVD spec is finished. You aren’t going to buy a disc today that has features you can’t use. And you aren’t going to buy a player today that is incompatible with the features likely to appear in a future software release. I don’t know many people who spent $500 on a player only to expect that in a year they’d have to shell out more money to replace it simply because Sony wasn’t really finished figuring out what Blu-ray was and how to integrate the features into the hardware.

If you buy Blu-ray that’s exactly what you are doing.

And yes, I still believe that regardless both will still end up as niche products, though these $99 deals on HD DVD do have me wondering.

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  1. November 7th, 2007 at 14:53 | #1

    I’ve just got to believe that there are a bunch of “yes” men working at Sony. I just don’t get their business model. They’ve been riding on their good name for years and they seem to think that they can charge anything they want for a product. It may take another 10 years but eventually that good name horse is going to drop dead.

    Putting out incomplete hardware, however, is really unlike Sony. Was anyone really surprised when nearly every xbox 360 had to be repaired? I know I wasn’t. But I would have been shocked if the same thing happened to the PS3. Historically, features that are not included on the initial product releases and included later tend to get limited support. I wouldn’t be surprised if the BD-Live and Profile 1.1 features never made it to the mainstream players.

    Niche – oh yeah, but it seems that HD DVD has got the public’s number. Sure, they’ll pay for for quality but when you’re basically getting the same thing (or less) for $200-$300 more… well, no one is going to want to pay that.

  2. November 7th, 2007 at 22:22 | #2

    Heard a funny story yesterday. A short while back Best Buy implemented a new rule that said all HDMI-equipped products like receivers had to be Simplay certified for them to continue to carry them. (don’t get me started on this, Simplay is a major ripoff).

    In any case, everyone complied… that is, except Sony, who said “Nah, we don’t think we want to do that.”

    Best Buy said, “OK, well then you don’t have to…”

    Sony is used to being the big dog – and it’s hard to get that mentality out of your psyche.

  3. November 9th, 2007 at 11:23 | #3

    Blu-Ray Rules! I am going to turn you in to the Sony Gestapos so they can storm your homes and take away the $99 HD-DVD players that work better! Heil Blu-Ray!

  4. November 16th, 2007 at 12:49 | #4

    From what I understand, 1080i is a non-issue for 1080p24, which most film-based content is stored in on both HD-Disc formats:


    Thus, for most content 1080i60 will look exactly the same as 1080p60 when using a 1080p24 source. Is my understanding incorrect?

    The Real HT Info Podcast

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