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THE MORNING BUZZ: Blu-ray Is the Fly In the D-VHS Ointment

24 Feb, 2002 By: Thomas K. Arnold

The surprise announcement that nine major electronics firms had agreed on a standard for next-generation DVD -- and that product could appear in stores as early as next year -- struck a major blow to proponents of digital VHS.

Previously, speculation had been that the new and improved DVD, which uses blue-violet semiconductor laser beams and has a capacity roughly equal to that of six of today's DVDs, was at least five years off, giving backers of the rival D-VHS a sufficient window to rally behind what some are calling videotape's last stand.

D-VHS is high-definition, something today's DVDs are not. Warner and Sony hold patents on DVD, which means that for every disc that some other studio sells, a tiny percentage of the proceeds must be handed over. Granted, all the studios are making money hand over fist with DVD, but egos being what they are, it pains rival studio heads to effectively pad the pockets of their competitors.

I've never been a fan of digital VHS, believing that tape is an imperfect medium, a means to an end -- the end being an optical medium like DVD or CD. Further, I believe the studios that decided to support D-VHS with product are short-sighted because they are willing to risk confusing the consumer with yet another digital format in return for some quick cash and the satisfaction of sticking it to Warner and Sony.

But with so-called "blue-laser" DVD bowing a year from now instead of five years down the pike, digital VHS is almost assured of failure. Its window of opportunity has just been slammed shut and, as far as I'm concerned, good riddance.

The last thing we need is Divx -- a competing technology that in kindest terms could be described as the proverbial fly in the ointment -- all over again.

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