For the past five years, DVD has been the bright beam of sunshine spreading across the home-entertainment landscape, not only heating up movie sales and rentals but also, with its first-rate images and sound, helping to spark the whole home theater trend.
The arrival of high-definition discs would seem to indicate continued fair weather. But a few storm clouds are gathering because there are two high-def formats - HD DVD and Blu-ray - and they're incompatible.
Each format has its merits. HD DVD, developed and supported primarily by Toshiba and NEC, has almost four times the capacity of a standard DVD. And it's being touted as a much less expensive changeover than Blu-ray since it's based on the DVD and the discs can be made on existing production lines with minor modifications. But Blu-ray's strengths are also impressive: much more capacity than HD DVD and the backing of more than a dozen powerhouse consumer-electronics and computer companies, including Sony, Dell, and Panasonic (see "The Rivals at a Glance" below). But it might be the considerable weight of the Hollywood movie studios that determines which format prevails in the end.
The Rivals at a Glance
|Biggest Advantage||can be made using current DVD production lines||almost twice the capacity of HD DVD|
|read-only||15 GB, single layer; 30 GB dual layer||25 GB, single layer; 50 GB, dual layer|
|recordable/erasable||20 GB, single layer; 32 GB dual layer||23/25/27 GB, single layer; 50 GB dual layer|
|Will play in standard DVD players||no||no|
|Backers||Toshiba, NEC, Sanyo, Memory-Tech, the DVD Forum||Sony, Philips, JVC, Pioneer, Panasonic, HP, Dell, Hitachi, Samsung, TDK, and more|
|Movie studio support||New Line, Paramount, Universal, Warner Bros.||Columbia TriStar, Disney, MGM|
|Availability||late 2005||already available in Japan; U.S. late in 2005|