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Monday, 17 July 2006 17:57

Blu-ray versus HD DVD, where hype meets FUD (corrected)


Editor's Note: (The following article contains errors for which we apologize to reviewer Joshua Zyber. We mistakenly attributed two quotes from a review at to another source. Mr Zyber is the source of the quotes and not a Microsoft employee or blogger as originally stated.)

From the day that Japanese electronics giants Toshiba and Sony parted ways failing to come to an agreement on unifying the Blu-ray and HD DVD high definition video technologies, we have witnessed a PR war not seen since the days of Betamax and VHS or Macintosh and PCs. The fact that right now most of what we're hearing from both camps is FUD about the opposition, indicates that both sides are not entirely sure where they stand.

From the the start, the HD DVD camp pushed the line that its technology was more affordable - HD DVD players would be half the price of Blu-ray players. On the other hand, the Blu-ray camp claimed superior technology with higher data storage capabilities. Blue-ray has a potential storage capacity of 50 GB (25 GB per side) compared with 30 GB for HD DVD (15 GB per side).

Last month, stories proliferated about how Toshiba, which beat the Blu-ray camp to market with an HD DVD player, was being retailed at around US$200 less than the cost of production. Toshiba subsequently denied this, claiming through a manager that the company always sells its products at a profit.

When asked how it would combat Sony's ability to sell its Blu-ray hardware at a loss in PlayStation 3 because of the games it sells, Toshiba came up with the argument that it could accomplish much the same result by licensing its technology and the royalties it would receive from HD DVD movies.

Now Toshiba, through allies such as Microsoft, is spreading FUD about the Blu-ray technology itself. How's this for a bit of unbiased comment: "Sadly, and it really pains me as a High Definition fan to say this, but what we've got is a case of twice the price for less quality. If this first player and the initial wave of discs are any indication, Blu-ray has not only failed to surpass its less-expensive rival, it has quite a bit of catching up to do."

That was from a supposedly unbiased blogger, who just happens to also be a Microsoft employee. We are so sorry he is pained and we feel it too. (Apology to Joshua Zyber who actually made the above quote at and is a reviewer and not a Microsoft employee or blogger - we picked up the quote off a Microsoft employee's blog and wrongly attributed it.)

According to Zyber, any advantage that Blu-ray technology may have over HD DVD in storage capacity has been negated by two factors.

Firstly - and this is where the FUD kicks in - Blu-ray is brand new unlike HD DVD (which is based on DVD) and the technique for dual sided 50 GB discs has not been perfected. Therefore, Blu-ray can really only offer 25 GB of storage compared with 30 GB from HD DVD.

Secondly, Blu-ray supports a more data hungry standard than HD DVD.

Says Zyber: "HD DVDs have been using Microsoft's VC-1 codec, an advanced compression format capable of squeezing huge amounts of high-resolution video into a limited storage space without visible artifacts. VC-1 doesn't need 50 gb for movie storage; it's proven that even longer movies can fit perfectly well within 30 gb and maintain excellent quality while still including numerous bonus features on the same disc. The Blu-ray discs released so far have (at Sony's insistence) been using the older and less efficient MPEG2 codec (the same format used on regular DVDs), which requires a lot more space to deliver comparable results."

Addressing both of the above issues, which are admittedly valid points, there is not much doubt that 50 GB double side Blu-ray discs will be available before too long. However, the Blu-ray camp can also implement the VC-1 format if it so chooses, although there is nothing to suggest that it will do so.

What is happening here is FUD attack and counter FUD attack. As a result, the best thing for consumers to do is give both highly over priced technologies a wide berth until there is an excuse to buy a high definition player.

Sony at the moment holds an ace up its sleeve with the impending  release of PlayStation 3 which will incorporate a Blu-ray player. The question is, can Microsoft afford not to follow suit with Xbox 360?

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Stan Beer


Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.





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