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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:54 03/09/2007
News Review #363: September 14, 2006

Sony to Launch Blu-ray Recorder in Japan by Dec

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Sony to Launch Blu-ray Recorder in Japan by Dec


Blu-ray is a format being promoted by a consortium of companies called the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA), spearheaded by Sony and including such giants as Matsushita, Sharp, Dell, Apple, TDK, Hitachi, LG, Phillips, and Sun Microsystems. Blu-ray is intended to become the next generation optical disc format designed for high-density storage of high-definition video and data. The disc resembles the physical format similar to the conventional CDs and DVDs, which is a round plastic disc of 12 cm in diameter, but by utilizing blue-violet laser with a wavelength of 405 nm, it can store significantly more data than DVDs and CDs using red or infrared lasers.

Blu-ray format, however, is currently competing with the HD DVD format for wide adoption as the next generation standard. HD DVD is being promoted by a group of companies led by Toshiba and major members being NEC and Sanyo. It uses the same 405 nm laser, and the volume of data storable is also similar to Blu-ray, for now anyway.

Proponents of Blu-ray claim their advantages as being supported by larger number of major companies worldwide, earlier release of actual products (than HD DVD), and the potential of the capacity to be further increased as new technologies are used. Those who support HD DVD format say that theirs is advantageous in terms of production cost of the equipments and the discs, and facilitates for easier transition from the conventional formats as it is, after all, a High-Definition(ized) DVD.

As mentioned in the article, the standoff between the two formats resembles the videotape format war between VHS and Betamax of 1980s, when the group led by Matsushita promoted VHS while Sony pushed Betamax. Which side wins this time, no one knows, and the consumers are again left in the confusion. One side may win - perhaps in a few years time, but another possibility is for equipment manufacturers to come up with players/recorders compatible for both formats. This has already occurred in the case of conventional DVD where most of the players/recorders currently sold are capable of handling (many of) its format variations of DVD, DVD-R, DVD-RAM, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, and DVD+RW.

But it is still premature for ordinary consumers to be able to decide on which format to stick to unless they are willing to take the risk for buying the equipment for the other format later, even though the functions of them being virtually identical for the consumers. Accordingly, the sales of the new (either of the) format - its players/recorders and the discs - are expected be slow, at least compared to if the formats had been consolidated.

In fact, for either of the Blu-ray or HD DVD promoters, the real competitor may not be the other camp.

Apple Computers has just started delivering movies and games on the internet. VOD (video on demand) services are expanding by utilizing cable and satellite TV channels. Although the quality of the pictures delivered though such methods are generally lower than DVDs for now, technology and competition would soon make it competitive with the programs delivered via physical means, such as discs. It might be less expensive now to rent the discs than to download them, but this, too, could change anytime depending on the technology, and the copyright policies of the providers of the programs. This has already happened for CDs. The failure of once mighty - in terms of financial health and market dominance - Tower Records is a good case in point.

The technology behind the creation of Blu-ray or HD DVD is significant. But while the two camps are quarrelling over which is more superior, there is a real possibilities of other types of services to penetrate - not only the new but also the conventional - optical disc market. Manufacturers should have learned enough from experiences with such gadgets as DATs and MDs where some companies may have made some money but resulted in deserting the consumers. It may be necessary to remind those manufacturers that it might be better for them to seek their own well-being through assisting the people to live better, rather than confronting with other manufacturers in pursuing their own egos.

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