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A Plea for a Unified, Blu Future

14 Jan, 2008 By: Thomas K. Arnold

It's time to knock it off. Ever since the two rival next-generation formats launched in 2006, I have been calling for an end to the format war, but without specifically telling one side or the other to get out.

I'm doing so now. With Warner Home Video dumping HD DVD, the format has the support of just two of the six major studios. It cannot win. At best, it can be a spoiler, but I'm hoping Toshiba, Universal and Paramount will take the high road and, for the good of the entire industry, bow out. Universal and Paramount, in particular, need to jump on the Blu-ray Disc bandwagon so we can go into the new year with a unified front and a unified mission: To educate consumers about the advantages of high-definition media and convince them the time to transition from standard DVD to Blu-ray is the day they bring that HDTV into their home.

Prolonging a format war that never should have happened in the first place makes no sense at this point. Study after study shows that consumer confusion is the No. 1 reason people aren't rushing out to buy HD media hardware or software, and the format war is the reason everyone's so confused — why risk buying something that six months down the road could be obsolete?

Quite honestly, I never favored either Blu-ray Disc or HD DVD. I saw the advantages of both. I also believe we need a successor technology, one that takes full advantage of HDTV and presents viewers with a true high-definition picture.

I also never bought any of the arguments that sought to defuse the potential damage of the format war by presenting it as a good thing. Sure, multiple formats exist in other industries, such as games and computers, but home video isn't like that. Much like music, we have the exact same product — the hit of the week.

The events of the past two years could be a textbook case for how not to launch a format. Blu-ray Disc was rushed to market simply because HD DVD was already there, fit and primed. That's why we have these evolving players and technologies such as Bonus View and BD-Live. Sure, it would have been nice to have everything in Blu-ray's final spec. But that didn't happen.

Looking back, HD DVD never had the support it needed. One CE maker against dozens; just three of the six majors, and even that was whittled down to two out of six when Warner bailed out.

The writing's clearly on the wall. Let's do the right thing.

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