Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Lord of the DVD

There seems to be a new way to watch, listen to, and record DVD media every day.

The DVD+RW Alliance fired the first salvo with its 8x DVD+R. Matching its effort is Pioneer and the DVD Forum with their 8x DVD-R. The DVD+RW Alliance subsequently upped the ante with dual layer (DL) DVD+R. Again, Pioneer and the DVD retaliated with their version of dual layer DVD-R.

If you think you’ve seen the last of the format wars, think again. The next stage of the high-definition video revolution will see industry players divided into two camps, with Blu-ray in one corner of the ring and Advanced Optical Disc (AOD) or HD DVD in the other. Backing the Blu-ray format are 10 leading CE manufacturers, while HD DVD is championed by NEC, Toshiba and nominally the DVD Forum.

At this moment, Blu-ray seems to have the edge with expensive products already shipping in Japan and a roadmap for dual layer capacities of 46-54 GB. HD DVD is not far off with a capacity improvement of 20 GB rewritable and 15 GB for ROM. The argument goes that since the HD DVD format retains the same media thickness and basic technology approach, it will be easier for media manufacturers to move up to HD DVD disc production. Watch out, too, for the China factor – in the form of Enhanced Video Disc (EVD).

But the big question is: Do consumers really care about the added capacity if it will be at a substantial premium and will require a new generation of players for playback?

Without the benefit of hindsight or crystal ball in hand, I don’t know the answer.

If you do, I’ll be keen to know.

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