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Ddawg
6th January 2007, 03:45
DVD Format Wars: Blu-ray or HD DVD? (http://news.yahoo.com/s/nf/20070105/tc_nf/49142)
David Garrett, newsfactor.com (http://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/nf/tc_nf/byline/49142/21479548/SIG=10r33ca9a/*http://www.newsfactor.com)

It's been a hot season for high-def news. First, Sony's PlayStation 3 game console made a big splash with its built-in Blu-ray drive -- a drive that held up production, forcing a PS3 shortage in the U.S. market. Then Microsoft announced that users of its Xbox 360 Live service could download high-def movies, only to see the service crash briefly under the heavy demand.

Now LG has announced that it will debut a dual HD DVD/Blu-ray player at next week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a show that's become, over the years, the industry's Mecca for all things cutting-edge. And Warner Bros., for its part, has announced that it will introduce a dual-format disc at CES called "Total HD." The disc will carry both HD DVD and Blu-ray movies, and work in either type of player.

Of course, all this begs the question of which format is winning -- or, rather, whether either of the two formats will win. And will consumers, whose wallets are already weighed down as it is, care enough about the promise of HD DVD or Blu-ray to spring for either one?

No Clear Winner

"The balance isn't tipping just yet, and we're still very, very much in the early-adopter phase," said Michael Gartenberg, vice-president and research director at Jupiter Research.

With no clear winner, it's possible that LG's dual-action drive and Warner Brothers' dual-action discs could tip the scales one way or the other, he added. "But at this point, for most consumers who are savvy enough to have learned over the years that they're better off waiting until there's a standard out there, that there's enough content out there, and that the prices have dropped sufficiently, they're best served by waiting rather than getting on board."

The bottom line? According to Gartenberg, the industry might go hot and heavy over the next few months, with release after release and news report upon news report, but consumers are more likely to sit on the fence and watch the action unfold.

Behind the Third Door

That watch-and-wait approach is the third option that few people are talking about. It's quite possible that neither format will win, and both will die out in time.

It is indisputable that HD DVD and Blu-ray offer eye-popping movies whose main selling point is their quality, but the quality wars have played out before -- most recently in digital music. Gartenberg noted that consumers picked MP3 players (and the iPod, above all) over different, better-quality sound formats that made their own Las Vegas debuts in years past, with all the splashiness of showgirls.

It was the ease of use of MP3s and crowd-pleasers like the iPod's sleek, well-received design that brought consumers around. And what's good for music might also be what's good for movies. "So it may not be about just higher-quality video for consumers," said Gartenberg.

"There's one scenario here that says that neither format wins, that consumers continue to buy DVDs and happily ignore these things, and neither one gains enough momentum to win out over the other," he added.