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Blu-ray May Be the Better Technology, But It Seems They're Losing the PR Battle

10 Jan, 2005 By: Stephanie Prange

Blu-ray has been hailed as a leap ahead in the format universe. “Imagine All You Can Do With Blu,” ran the slogan at last week's CES press conference touting the high-definition disc format competing with HD-DVD for next-generation dominance. Blu-ray backers emphasized the format's greater storage capacity for recording, as well as for handling better picture and sound, creative extras, and better and more creative gameplay. Indeed, the group touted the addition of Electronics Arts and Vivendi Universal Games to its roster. The team also trotted out futurist John Naisbitt to trumpet its transcendent innovation. “Producers all need more room for creativity,” he said.

But I must say it looks like they're losing the PR battle. At CES, the HD-DVD side scored points by drawing a line in the sand and announcing specific and strong titles for the launch of the format in fourth-quarter 2005. Blu-ray's high-minded ideals came off as imprecise in the face of an actual launch with upcoming theatrical titles such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and catalog hits such as the “Harry Potter” franchise. HD-DVD backers once again touted its ease of manufacture with Warner Home Video's Jim Cardwell emphasizing its “real world benefits.” The team even demonstrated movie trailers on the disc with a flourish.

While many industry insiders I've talked to say Blu-ray's technology is better by far — and viable as well — it seems its backers can't quite shake the “vaporware” label. Despite Panasonic's Richard Doherty's protestations of “Blu-ray disc is here today,” the Blu-ray group has no list of titles, no demonstration. While the group may come around and announce titles soon, at CES they did little to shake the feeling that HD-DVD had a clearer launch plan.

Blu-ray may eventually win out. Heck, one Blu-ray supporter told me Beta was first to market — and we all know what happened there. But it was also widely accepted that Beta, like Blu-ray, was a better technology than VHS, and it still lost. “[Beta] had fewer companies supporting it,” noted Blu-ray backer Andy Parsons, SVP of Pioneer Electronics. Indeed, Blu-ray has a panoply of hardware and studio backers, but it will soon come time to turn its grand vision into reality.

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