Beyond DVD

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
Storage capacity
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