Those who remember the mid 80's when VHS and Beta Max went head to head (pun intended) in a war over which technology would be the videocassette format of choice have just witnessed the equivalent of WWIII. The battle for the reigning high-definition (HD) video format is over, and Blu-ray (BD) has won over HD DVD. As the casualties pile up, the new question is, will it even matter in a year or two?
At some point, DVDs became undesirable for techies who need to pack more information on a disc. Conventional DVDs can hold only 4.7GB of information, which isn't enough to accommodate the demands of high-definition video. The difference between standard DVD players and HD DVD and Blu-ray players is that the former uses red lasers to read and write data while the latter two both use blue lasers. Blue light has a shorter wavelength (405nm) than red (650nm), so information can be packed more densely on a disc. Therefore, video resolution limits are different for DVDs and Blu-ray/HD DVDs. The latter allow for 1920×1080(1080p), the HD standard, which is the point. Without the growing popularity of HDTVs, a new videodisc format would be unnecessary.
So why did Blu-ray win the title of most popular new videodisc format? The simple answer is that it had more fans. According to Blockbuster video, which has been renting both Blu-ray and HD DVD titles in 250 stores since 2007, consumers were choosing Blu-ray titles more than 70% of the time. This may have been due to the popularity of the actual titles that were initially being offered early on, which had everything to do with the companies backing the two formats. A group of leading consumer electronics, personal computer and media manufacturers are responsible for developing the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA). The BDA Board of Directors currently consists of such companies as Apple Computer, Inc., Dell Inc., Hewlett Packard, Hitachi, and Sony. Going up against these companies were backers of the HD DVD format, chiefly Toshiba and Microsoft. The nails in the coffin for HD DVD might have been set when studio powerhouses Twentieth Century Fox, Walt Disney Pictures, and Warner Bros. Entertainment joined the fight on the side of Blu-ray.
In February 2008, Toshiba announced that it was planning to discontinue production and marketing of HD DVD. After that, Netflix, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart all turned their backs on the HD DVD format, leaving Toshiba and Microsoft to licks their wounds and wonder what they did wrong. Many point to Sony putting Blu-ray in its Playstation 3 machines as the bullet in HD DVD's head. Either way, the war is over. And while Blu-ray supporters have cause to rejoice, there's a storm already on the horizon. Industry experts are claiming that video players and discs of any type will be obsolete very soon. The possibility of 100% digital video streaming directly into your HDTV is quickly becoming a reality. Perhaps that's why the price of Blu-ray machines is plummeting. HD consumers should do their research and purchase wisely in the coming year or two.