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High-Def War Is Hell

15 Apr, 2005 By: Thomas K. Arnold

There's growing belief that despite the sharp rhetoric about who's better among the two rival next-generation optical-disc camps, we may yet see a compromise before any product comes to market.

A Reuters news report said Blu-ray Disc supporter Sony Corp. threw out the proverbial olive branch at a media event in Bordeaux, France. The general manager of Sony's Blu-ray Disc team told the news agency “we're open to discussions,” citing growing concern over the prospect of two competing high-def formats coming to market at roughly the same time.

At last, some sense! Personally, I can't believe it's taken this long for the concept of a compromise to even be floated. Back when DVD was being developed, the two competing sides came to the table and hammered out a compromise more than a year before launch.

And that's what should have happened here. Even if a compromise is effected sometime before launch, I fear a lot of damage already has been done. The battle between Blu-ray and HD-DVD even made the front page of the Al-Jazeera Web site one day this week. There it was, a story headlined “Debate on DVD Formats Heats Up,” alongside reports of another deadly car bombing in Baghdad and a button inviting viewers to “Discover Islam.”

And that's just it — any excitement consumers might have over a really cool new format is overshadowed by fears of a format war. Even a couple of high-tech buddies I have who bought DVD players as soon as they hit the market both told me recently they were going to sit this one out until the dust has settled.

“I started getting into DVD-Audio and got burned,” said one. “I'm not going to make the same mistake again.”

He was referring, of course, to the bruising quest for a new and better CD between DVD-Audio and SACD. Neither format is anything more than a tiny niche business today, and the music industry is still reeling from slumping CD sales and no tangible savior in the face of the continued digital downloading menace.Hollywood, are you listening?

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