Format War Is Over, If You Want It
Ever since the late ’70s and early ’80s, when not one but two consumer video format wars erupted, the popular press has perpetually itched for “the next battle.”
The original consumer video format wars pitted VHS versus Betamax, a battle everyone still
remembers. (The other, much less-remembered squabble was between LaserDisc and RCA SelectaVision CED for supremacy in the 12-inch disc world.) In this decade, an audio format tilt between SACD and DVD-Audio showed promise but, in the end, a lack of consumer interest rendered that battle moot, no matter how much print was generated on the subject.
For a while now, it’s looked like high-definition DVD was shaping up to be the Format War of the Decade, with the battle lines drawn between Toshiba’s HD DVD and Sony’s Blu-ray Disc, with
no reconciliation between the two camps in sight. En garde!
But a funny thing has happened to high-def DVD on its way to market. In just a few months’ time, technology from independent third-party product developers has blended the two formats together to the point where, it would appear, the future may render this particular format war little more than a skirmish.
Peace in Our Time?
At last month’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the wall between Blu-ray and HD DVD came tumbling down twice.
First, LG introduced its $1,199 BH100 Super Multi Blue Player, the world’s first dual-compatible high-def DVD player, capable of playing both Blu-ray and HD DVD discs. It’s due to hit retail shelves this quarter.
Second, a big movie studio/distributor announced something even more dual-compatible: A method of recording both formats on the same disc, using one side for Blu-ray and the other for HD DVD. Yes, such discs will cost slightly more to replicate, but surely high-def DVD prices will come down over time (just look at today’s $6 DVD bargain bin to see just how low it can go.)