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Understanding & Solutions: Next Six Months 'Critical' For High-def

21 Sep, 2007 By: Chris Tribbey

Recent events have favored HD DVD, but Blu-ray Disc can still win the high-def battle, according to Jim Bottoms, co-managing director of the research firm Understanding & Solutions.

In a report released Sept. 21, Bottoms summarized recent events in the format war, and gave his company's take on how the upcoming holiday season will be crucial to consumers' uptake of high-definition media.

“Though player prices are falling across the board, there is growing concern that the consumer does not fully understand the high definition concept,” Bottoms wrote. “And the confusion is further compounded by the choice of two different disc-based formats.

“It is also a crucial time for PS3, having underperformed last year in the USA due to its high price, delayed availability and the unexpected success of the Wii, as well as missing the European Christmas season completely.”

Bottoms gave the nod to HD DVD for gaining momentum with Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Animation SKG dumping Blu-ray. He also listed several issues Blu-ray has to overcome, including technical standards that must be agreed on by manufacturers and expensive prices for set-top Blu-ray players.

He added that HD DVD made gains when Chinese manufacturer Alco-Venturer announced a $199 HD DVD player for the fourth quarter.

Warner Bros. could turn the tide either way should it drop its support of one format or the other, Bottoms added. “The landscape would change dramatically should Warner make a similar decision [as Paramount], or one of the BD-exclusive studios defected to HD DVD or even elected to release on both formats,” he said.

While Warner has said it's finding good business in releasing films for both formats, Bottoms noted that both must be authored separately, mastering costs are doubled, and video encoding both may mean Blu-ray's higher 50GB capacity isn't being taken advantage of.

In Europe, Blu-ray does have some good news to celebrate, Bottoms noted. Several studios are beginning to support both formats after only releasing on HD DVD, three replicators are adding Blu-ray lines, and BD-Java authoring tools are being simplified.

“There is growing concern throughout the industry that both high-definition disc formats could be lost completely in a world of competing delivery options and viewing platforms,” Bottoms said. “As we stand today, industry support for BD across content and hardware remains the strongest grouping and it is therefore the format with the greatest chance of market success, although its strength is being eroded.

“Whatever happens, continued competition between the two groups will lead to continuing confusion and uncertainty, and therefore delayed consumer purchase decisions.”

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