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Episode 4: The New Formats

Just when you thought the DVD was the mother of all media Royal Phillips and Sony push the envelope further with their latest invention Blu-ray Disc (BD). Already labeled the next generation of optical discs Blu-ray will be able to store more data in the form of movies, pictures, audio and other digital content than ever before. Blu-ray discs will hold an astonishing 25 gigabytes of data and 50 gigabytes of data on the dual layered version. That’s the equivalent storage capacity of over 5 and 10 DVDs respectively. Imagine having a disc that holds the equivalent of 79 CDs.

Blu-ray equipment has already been on the market since mid 2003 but has yet to receive mainstream demand. This may be due to the relatively new DVD format still selling strong and is widely used and accepted throughout the world. When will Blu-Ray catch fire? It’s too early to tell but as long as consumer’s thirst for bigger and better media is left unquenched it shouldn’t too much longer. Sony’s next generation video game the PS3 is already said to come with the technology, which will give gamers added dimension never seen before.

Now you didn’t think Blu-Ray would go unchallenged did you? Since history always repeats itself there of course is always another format to step forward and cause a format war. HD DVD or High Definition is backed by Toshiba, NEC and Sanyo and is also backed by four major movie studios. HD DVD delivers a little less capacity than Blu-ray with 15GB for a single layer disc and 30GB for a dual layer disc but is still a relatively big step up from DVD. Mass production of HD DVD drives is expected in first quarter 2005.

Who will win this format war? It’s too early to declare a winner but it seems HD DVD might have the early advantage. HD-DVD has been submitted to the DVD forum for which is an international organization of hardware and software companies that develop DVD products. Also in HD’s favor is the fact that HD-DVD can be manufactured using existing DVD lines unlike Blu-ray, which would require an overhauling of existing disc production lines. Whichever format comes out on top it will be nice to know that the consumer won’t suffer too badly for both formats are backwards compatible meaning you won’t be tossing out your DVD collection because DVDs will be able to play in HD-DVD or Blu-Ray drives. The thing to remember though is you WILL need to buy a Blu-Ray or HD-DVD player to play the new formats. Just when I thought I was all set with my brand new DVD system! Geez when will this ever end?

To be continued……