The high-definition DVD wars are lining up on familiar battle grounds, with Microsoft and Intel having announced Monday their support for the HD-DVD format, while in March of 2005, Apple Computer announced its support for the competing Blu-ray format. HD-DVD was developed and championed by Toshiba, and includes electronics manufacturers such as NEC and Sanyo, and content providers Universal Studios and Paramount Pictures Corp.
The Blu-ray format, on the other hand, was developed by Sony and Philips, and until Mondayis announcement, included a larger group of tech giants as supporters, including Dell, Hewlett Packard, Hitachi, Panasonic, Pioneer, Phillips, Samsung, Sharp and Sony, Sony Pictures, MGM and Walt Disney.
At issue is which of the competing formats will be adopted as an industry standard for not only computers, but commercial DVD products, as well. Accordingly, many billions of dollars of commerce will be dependent on one format or the other, and the computer and entertainment industries want to avoid having both formats in the market place (as was the case with the Beta and VHS war in the 1970s and 1980s).
The move to higher capacity DVDs has long been sought as high-definition content exceeds the capabilities of standard DVD formats. Computer manufacturers want a high-definition format for users, as well, as HD cameras are becoming increasingly popular with professionals, prosumers, hobbyists, and even consumer video editors.
When Apple joined the Blu-ray board in March of 2005, the momentum looked to be swinging towards the format, but Microsoft and Intel add disproportionately heavy weight to the HD-DVD camp.
In a joint statement, the two companies said they chose the HD-DVD format because it, "meets important criteria and delivers unique advantages, including PC and connected device interoperability and an easy, affordable transition to high definition for consumers. HD DVD can bring the excitement of HD video to the consumer faster than competing formats, with the potential for more affordable hardware and more interactive experiences."
The companies touted HD-DVD features such as Managed Copy, which allows consumers to copy DVDs to their hard drives in a "managed" fashion; backwards compatibility with previous generation DVD technologies, including hybrid DVDs for use while the marketplace transitions to next-generation players; cheaper manufacturing; "superior interactivity," a somewhat subjective assessment; and what both companies said is a fast track to slimline DVD drives for notebook PCs.
What this means for Apple is unclear, but even when Apple joined the Blu-ray board earlier this year, it did so in a coy fashion. Apple has by no means thrown all its eggs into the Blu-ray basket, and could still easily support whichever format wins the fight.
All that said, the reality is that with the exception of Microsoft and Intel, HD-DVDis backers donit carry the same weight as the Blu-ray supporters. Compare the list of backers for each (HD-DVD members - Blu-ray members), and itis clear that Apple joined an already solid team when it joined the Blu-ray board.
Accordingly, it remains to be seen if the Wintel hegemony can truly sap Blu-rayis momentum.