Blu Ray DVD vs HD DVD
Toshiba Drops HD-DVD
Toshiba dropped HD-DVD today (February 19, 2008) after Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Netflix abandoned this high resolution format. All three of these vendors, and many others, have adopted Blu-Ray by Sony.
Apparently Sony NOW knows how to win a format war.
From Toshiba: "HD DVD was developed to offer consumers access at an affordable price to high-quality, high definition content and prepare them for the digital convergence of tomorrow where the fusion of consumer electronics and IT will continue to progress."
In the statement (link below) Toshiba stated that it has assessed the long term outlook of HD-DVD and decided that a quick decision regarding it's commitment was best for the marketplace. Atsutoshi Nishida, President of Toshiba, stated that "While we are disappointed for the company and more importantly, for the consumer, the real mass market opportunity for high definition content remains untapped and Toshiba is both able and determined to use our talent, technology and intellectual property to make digital convergence a reality."
He went on to promise that Toshiba will continue to it's innovation in a wide range of technologies that drive mass markets toward high definition. This includes flash memory, micro-form factor hard discs, CPUs, visual processing and wireless & encryption processes.
Nishida went on to say; "Toshiba will begin to reduce shipments of HD- DVD players and recorders to retail channels, aiming for cessation of these businesses by the end of March 2008."
"Toshiba also plans to end volume production of HD DVD disk drives for such applications as PCs and games in the same time-frame, yet will continue to make efforts to meet customer requirements. The company will continue to assess the position of notebook PCs with integrated HD DVD drives within the overall PC business relative to future market demand."
Additionally he said: "This decision will not impact on Toshiba's commitment to standard DVD, and the company will continue to market conventional DVD players and recorders. Toshiba intends to continue to contribute to the development of the DVD industry, as a member of the DVD Forum, an international organization with some 200 member companies, committed to the discussion and defining of optimum optical disc formats for the consumer and the related industries."
He also stated that Toshiba commitment to collaborators in the HD-DVD format would continue in future business possibilities, hinting that the information gained from developing HD-DVD would be put to good use.
Since this format war is a "moving target" I've added this section for up-to-the minute information.
Blu Ray Disc vs HD DVD a comparison
There are two competing High Density DVD formats vying for your technology purchasing dollars. Which stores more? Who supports Blu Ray? Who supports HD DVD?
So many questions. And these are important ones for your future video purchasing decisions. Why? Because as of this writing you cannot get a DVD player that will play both of these formats on one machine.
Shades of Betamax and VHS; a history lesson: This is somewhat similar to the video tape "format wars" of the mid to late 1970s. Sony created and supported their video format Betamax and JVC supported and sold it's competing format VHS. As with today's DVD format war, Betamax did not work on VHS machines and VHS (Video Home System) did not work on Beta machines. By 1980 VHS controlled 70% of the North American consumer market. Due to the economies of scale VHS was considerably cheaper than Betamax and by 1984 forty companies supported VHS to Sony's twelve.
By 1988 Sony was making it's own VHS player thereby conceding defeat in the format wars. However in Japan Betamax players continued to be made until 2002.
Why did VHS win out in the format wars? One reason certainly was that the JVC managed to license the format to more vendors while Sony tried to keep Betamax a single source technology. Another reason was that VHS tapes were cheaper to mass produce and therefore a less expensive alternative to Betamax for the consumer.
Sony is one of the partners in this new format war.
Comparisons of the two formats to standard DVD
Disc Capacity: The big advantage with both these formats is that the disks will store considerably more information than standard DVD disks. As of now standard DVD disks hold 4.7 Gigabytes of information per layer. A DVD disk can support two layers for a total of 9.4 Gigabytes of information. This is rarely used however. Standard DVD delivers two basic vertical resolutions to your television; 480i (interlaced) or 480p. See link below.
Blu Ray or HD DVD on the other hand can store 17 to 25 Gigabytes of information per layer for total of 34 to 50 gigabytes of storage with two layers. There is even talk of adding a third layer.
What technology makes this different from standard DVD: Standard DVD uses a red or infrared light laser to record and read information from the disc. The very nature of the red/infrared laser means the beam of coherent light is "fat."
HD DVD/Blu Ray, on the other hand, use blue light lasers which are considerably tighter and thinner coherent* light beams.
As an example try pointing a flashlight at a wall from five feet away. Notice the size of the circle of light cast on the wall. This is the red light or standard DVD beam. Now move to within two feet of the wall and notice the size of the circle of light. This represents the blue light laser. If your wall space doesn't change then the more dots of light you can "paint" on wall the more information you can store in the same space.
This is a really sloppy analogy, but not that far off for the purposes of this discussion.
Now for a comparison of the two formats.
Storage Capacity: Blu Ray and HD DVD have different capacities. Sony is pioneering the Blu Ray standard and Toshiba is pioneering the HD DVD standard. Once again Sony was the first to introduce the new format.
- Sony Blu Ray Capacity: 25 ~ 50 Gigabytes
- Toshiba HD DVD Capacity: 17 ~ 34 Gigabytes
Storage Summary:Sony Blu Ray has the higher capacity. This will only go up, as will HD DVD, when three layers are implemented.
Supporting Technical Companies: Software companies got into the action by virtue of the fact that any digital recording medium needs some sort of software to protect and decode the data on the discs. As luck would have it two competing software giants got involved.
- Sony decided to use Java (Sun Microsystems) as a decoding/interface language in support of their Blu Ray.
- Toshiba decided to use Microsoft's HDi.
Technical Summary: Microsoft and Sun Microsystems are direct competitors in the software arena. It is highly unlikely either will concede to the other for the sake one universal format.
Who Supports What?: As one might expect the two formats have their defenders and detractors. Who supports what is below.
- Blu Ray: is supported by Sony (on the PlayStation), TDK, Disney, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp, Pioneer, LG Electronics, Dell, Hewlett Packard, Denon, and Hitachi.
- HD-DVD: is supported by Toshiba, Microsoft (on the XBox 360), Universal Pictures, NEC, Sanyo, RCA, Kenwood, Intel, Venturer Electronic, Acer, Asus, HP, Hitachi Maxell, LG, Lite-On, Onkyo, Meridian, Samsung, and Alpine.
Summary Support: Note that Hitachi, LG, and Sharp support both formats. Also Discovery (Discovery Channel) HD supports both formats in regard to movie/video releases. PBS (Public Broadcasting System) also supports both formats on their disc offerings.
HD DVD & Blu Ray Disc both deliver 1080p vertical resolution to your television. See link below for a discussion of resolution.
As of this date none of the Major Manufacturers makes a single machine that can play both disks. There are two manufacturers that make computer disc reader/writers or playback machines that work with both formats. They are ATI and LG respectively.
Conclusions and Guesses: Having seen all this before I can draw a number of conclusions, but they are little better than guesses. Since Sony has already been down this road with Betamax (see above) it's quite likely they learned something from the last format war. There is no question that Blu Ray has the higher capacity which means more data are stored and more features can be offered per disc.
On the other hand Toshiba is already marketing a large number of players that are cheaper than the competing Blu Ray machines. As can be seen above both companies (Sony & Toshiba) are cross marketing the technology to third party manufacturers such as LG, Sharp, and Hitachi.
However unless you have money "to burn" as the expression goes you may want to sit back and play spectator to the new battle of the technology giants.
Who invented the Blue Light diode laser? Shuji Nakamura a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara invented the first commercially viable processes for mass producing blue light diode lasers in 1993. When Nakamura was paid 20,000 Yen ($180 U.S.) for his discovery he promptly sued his employer, Nichia Corporation, and eventually won the equivalent of seven million dollars.
* A coherent beam of light is a collection of photons that are traveling parallel to each other in the beam. A flashlight beam, by comparison, produces photons that are traveling at divergent angles in an ever expanding pattern. Coherent light is why a laser beam can make it all the way to the moon which is roughly 235,000 miles from Earth.
There are a number of reasons why, even though Blu-Ray looks like the likely standard, that you should wait to buy a Blu-Ray player. They are;
- Blu-Ray technology is still in it's infancy and any units you purchase today are likely to be obsolete in the very near future
- There are only about 450 titles currently available on Blu-Ray
- The players are still relatively expensive. A maturity in the technology and a wider adoption of this media as a standard will bring prices down. This hasn't happened as yet.
Toshiba has dropped HD-DVD after Walmart, Netflix, and many others dropped the format. I guess Sony DID learn something from the last format war; how to win one.
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