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Blu-Ray Backers Need to Strike While the Iron Is Hot

11 Mar, 2005 By: Thomas K. Arnold

The next-generation format war between rivals Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD is becoming increasingly interesting. The year opened with most pundits giving HD-DVD the clear edge, with more major-studio support (Universal, Paramount and Warner to Blu-ray's Disney and Sony), an earlier launch date (fourth quarter) and a slew of actual titles already in the pipeline.

Is the pendulum swinging back the other way? Recent events certainly indicate that it is. The appointment of Howard Stringer as Sony Corp.'s new chairman and CEO is seen as a reaffirmation of Sony's commitment to content — and Blu-ray, a lucrative new format for said content. Stringer was instrumental in bringing MGM into the Sony fold — a brilliant marriage, at last giving Sony a viable movie library, something it never really had — and is a strong believer in Blu-ray. On top of that comes Apple's support for Blu-ray by joining the Blu-ray Disc Association's board of directors, along with more and more speculation from industry insider that Fox is about to jump with both feet into the Blu-ray camp.

“HD-DVD generated the most awareness early in the year with the press conference at CES in which the studios all announced titles,” noted one respected industry observer. “But since then, there's been nothing from that side — while Blu-ray is now hogging the headlines.”

But the Blu-ray forces need to do more than make noise if they are to sustain this apparent momentum. Simply put, the Sony-led consortium behind Blu-ray has created a technologically superior format, but they've done a less-than-admirable job marketing it.

When HD-DVD announced titles at the Bellagio during CES, just before the big DEG event, Blu-ray should have been right there, in HD-DVD's face; instead, there was a smaller event, offsite, with no title announcement whatsoever. Blu-ray backers also have been conspicuously silent about a firm launch date, and have yet to counter many of the charges leveled against their side by HD-DVD — including Warren Lieberfarb's famed “vaporware” comment and, more recently, the claim that switching from existing DVD to Blu-ray on the manufacturing end would be next to impossible.

If Blu-ray is so great, its backers need to stand up and let the world know. To reverse an old saying, it's time for them to put their mouth where their money is.

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