Thursday, September 29, 2005

DVD formats: Blue-Ray vs HD-DVD

There is a new format war brewing in consumer electronics that reminds people of the VHS vs Betamax battle. This brings two competing incompatible DVD formats against one another - Sony's Blu-Ray vs Toshiba's HD DVD. You may wonder why do we need a new DVD format. After all, DVD has just recently taken off, and we are just starting to fill our collections. One of the problems with the current DVD format is that its copyright protection is extremely vulnerable, and the industry wants much better built-in DRM. The other problem with current formats is storage space. It is also appealing for the industry to get us to buy new players that support one of the formats.

Technically speaking, Blu-Ray seems to be much better than HD DVD where it counts: storage and DRM. Blu-Ray supports 50 GB storage in one single disc, while the highest test in the lab has produced storage capacities of up to 100 GB. HD DVD only has capacity for 30 GB, with the highest test at 45 GB. Sony has also claimed that it has much better copyright protection because it allows for dynamic encryption. This means that if the encryption protecting the disc is cracked (as it happened with normal DVDs), then the entire system would not be compromised, as new encryption algorithms could be uploaded to the disc and the players.

The format battle is set to reach us soon. Sony is putting all of its considerable weight behind Blu-Ray, particularly by the fact that it will include it in the Playstation 3. HD DVD has received the support of Microsoft and Intel, which would seem to make it the favourite.

Will history repeat itself? Sony lost the video recorder war, while many people claimed that Beta was much better. Will they also lose the DVD war?

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