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HD DVD vs. Blu-rayBy now, I'm sure you've read a dozen articles like this one. In fact, I debated about whether or not to title it as such, as I was afraid most of you would skip it over. Obviously that is not the case if you are now reading these words.

If you are withholding your Next-Gen DVD player purchase until this so-called format war has a winner, it won't help ... there likely won't be one ... and there definitely won't be one any time soon.

Reading further, you will see how each is making equal progress on almost all fronts, and that both camps are investing heavily in their respective formats heading into the holiday buying season. This is not an in-depth analysis of the two formats, as I'm sure you've read too much about each already ... but rather is intended to be a summary of the "current state" of each of the standards.


HD DVD Status

HD DVDHD DVD has a market lead of about 2 months, they are half the price out of the gate, and all reports from the field are saying the quality is better than Blu-ray (at least from the titles/player available right now).

They also have Microsoft on board, who is coming out with an HD DVD add-on (~$200) for the Xbox 360 this fall ... which will speed adoption of the format.

And while they don't have as many production houses on board at the moment, I predict that many of the production houses in the Blu-ray camp (except for maybe Sony) will follow in footsteps of Warner Home Video and Paramount Pictures and begin producing in both formats once they see HD DVD leading the way into households this holiday season.

You should expect to see more than 200 titles available by the time the holiday buying season arrives. And now that they are through the "testing" phase, and have worked out some disc production kinks, you should also see more blockbuster-type films released.


Blu-ray Status

Blu-rayBlu-ray is making great strides in penetrating the PC market, from a back-up media perspective. Both Sony and TDK are now shipping double-layer 50GB media, and TDK has prototyped 200GB media. The capacity advantage won't matter much for feature films, but the "TV on DVD" market will jump all over it.

Blu-ray also has many more manufacturers on board, which will lead to competition within the format itself, arguably resulting in better hardware.

And let's not forget about the Playstation 3, which is currently scheduled to arrive in the US on November 17th. In my opinion, that will have nearly the same penetrating effect as the Xbox drive will have for HD DVD, despite the PS3's $500-$600 price tag.


Conclusion

Both camps are so far invested, and are making equal headway both in terms of penetration and business partnerships that neither one will have any reason to "give in". And if you take into account the marketing dollars that will be spent through the next 6 months, that even further solidifies my position that we'll be living with both formats for a while to come ... and undoubtedly be reading another hundred articles like this one trying to predict the winner.. So if you're waiting for that, you'll be waiting a while.

I've outlined the key points in the table below for those that prefer a more visual representation:

  HD DVD Blu-ray Notes
Capacity   check The predominant size for HD DVD is 30GB, while Blu-ray is 50GB. Granted, this applies only to burned media at present, but an advantage nonetheless.
Disc Production check Existing DVD production facilities can be converted to HD DVD more readily than to Blu-ray
Price check Blu-ray players are selling at about 100% premium over HD DVD
Sales check check Too early to tell. Comparing sales over the past 6 weeks, when both players were available, Blu-ray leads slightly in unit sales ... but HD DVD is gaining.
Movie Industry check check HD DVD currently has more titles available than does Blu-ray, but Blu-ray has more movie studios in their camp ... for the moment.
Gaming check check Historically, PS has been more popular than Xbox, but we'll have to wait another 6 months to see if the price differences has any effect on that.
PC Industry check HD DVD - Intel, Microsoft, HP, and Toshiba
Blu-ray - Apple, HP, Dell, Sony
Blu-ray is going to get the check-mark here simply due to their capacity and the fact that they are already deeply entrenched in the PC market
Timing check HD DVD has a 2-month advantage ... so they get the check-mark, for now
Marketing check HD DVD has announced a US marketing spend of $150M, but there are rumors of an impending $200M campaign by Sony to push Blu-ray


One final prediction: It is more likely you will see a combo player, or combo media, before you will see either camp begin to pull ahead. While both Europe and Japan have these deeply staked out positions, Korea does not. Today manufacturers in Korea are designing and readying for market a combination player. The premium for doing so is said to be modest, although too early to know specifically.

Posted by Shane Sturgeon, August 16, 2006 11:43 AM

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About Shane Sturgeon

Shane Sturgeon is the Co-Publisher and Chief Technologist of HDTV Magazine, an industry publication with HDTV roots going back to 1984, when Dale Cripps founded The HDTV Newsletter. Today, HDTV Magazine is a leading online resource for HDTV news and information and captures the eyes and imaginations of over 3 million visitors annually. Mr. Sturgeon has a background in information technology and has served in various consulting capacities for Fortune 500 companies such as J.P. Morgan Chase, Verizon Communications, Proctor & Gamble and Nationwide Insurance. He has a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Wright State University.