Blu-ray Gets a Boost

Even though it hasn't been officially submitted to the DVD Forum for approval, the Blu-ray high-definition optical disc format appears to have the inside track for becoming the de facto standard.

Blu-ray won the pole position on June 13, when the Forum voted not to accept the Advanced Optical Disc (AOD) format proposed by NEC and Toshiba. AOD won only six of the thirteen votes needed for approval, with nine members abstaining and three voting against. Blu-ray Disc Founders (BDF) Matsushita, Sony, and Philips cast the "no" votes, with other BDF members abstaining, including Hitachi, JVC, LG Electronics, Mitsubishi, Pioneer, Samsung, and Thomson.

Warner Bros. cast one of the affirmative votes. AOD was promoted as a way to leverage "existing DVD-making infrastructure and thereby continue to exploit investments already made in DVD disc manufacturing," according to a news brief from Consumer Electronics Daily. Blu-ray's substrate structure "will require new manufacturing processes," the report stated.

Apart from Warner Bros., the film industry doesn't care about technical specifications for high-def DVD, as long as there aren't competing formats. In mid-June, a panel at the second annual Home Entertainment Summit in Los Angeles urged hardware makers to stop squabbling over technical details and agree on a single standard for a high-definition optical disc format.

The film industry fears an impending wave of piracy similar to that which has battered the music industry. Agreement on a high-def standard with strong copy protection would help Hollywood weather the coming storm, panelists said. Hastings Entertainment chief John Marmaduke, former president of the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) and current director on the board of Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA), spoke for most of his colleagues when he told reporters, "We don't care what color it is—blue, red, yellow, or orange—we just want one color so as not to confuse the consumer, or the movie industry will end up looking like the idiots in the music industry do today."

Former Warner Home Video chief Warren Lieberfarb, an instrumental player in the rollout of the open-format DVD, reiterated Marmaduke's message. He stated that "the home entertainment industry should take a lesson from the music business and migrate out of standard-definition to high-definition DVD immediately in order to advance piracy controls," according to a June 19 piece in the Hollywood Reporter. Sony's high-def, high-capacity Blu-ray DVD technology could appear in consumer products as early as first-quarter 2004.