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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

HD DVD vs. Blu-ray: How stupid do they think we are?

The Blu-ray versus HD DVD battle has at least one winner: journalists.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, I went to two separate parties on successive nights (one at the Wynn, one at the Mirage) sponsored by the groups promoting HD-DVD and Blu-ray. If there was just one standard for high-definition discs, that would've meant just half the free cocktails and finger food. Imagine the deprivation!

At each party, there was a parade of speeches: what a crisp picture, great interactive features, so many partners signed on to support our format, etc. HD-DVD had as its host an uncomfortable Nancy O' Dell from Access Hollywood, chattering about how she couldn't wait to buy HD-DVD players as gifts for all her friends and hangers-on. Blu-ray trotted out producer/director/cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld ("Men in Black," "The Addams Family"), who exclaimed that the Blu-ray group had picked "the grooviest name" for its standard. (A few seconds later, he mistakenly referred to it as Bluetooth.)

After the HD-DVD event, I sidled up to Warren Lieberfarb, the ex-Warner Bros. exec who is universally known as the father of the DVD. (He has been a consultant to Microsoft, which is in the HD-DVD camp.) I asked him about the dueling formats. "The studios should've banded together. They made a mistake by allowing two formats to move forward. Now they'll have to support both for some period of time," he said.

Keith Reed of the Boston Globe had this story yesterday, headlined, "Fight over DVD format may trap customers." At the very end, Reed writes:

    Ross Rubin, a consumer electronics analyst with the NPD Group, a research firm in Port Washington, N.Y., predicts that many consumers will wind up confused by the different standards and opt to keep their DVD players. Most may not upgrade until the industry settles on one format, or until one side eventually caves.

    ''The strongest competition for Blu-Ray or HD DVDs is not the rival format, but regular DVDs," he said.

One question I have...Where's the organized consumer boycott of this silliness? And once the format wars are over, given that both HD-DVDs and Blu-ray discs are the same size, would it be possible to make a player that'd play both kinds of discs? Or would that be insanely expensive for technical reasons?


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