Warner Officially Adopts Blu-ray

Some are calling it the end of the format war, others are calling it the beginning. Warner Home Video announced last week that it has joined the Blu-ray Disc Association and will release its films on Blu-ray, and, ostensibly, HD DVD as well. Universal is now the only studio of the six majors to be committed to HD DVD and not Blu-ray.

Although executives at Warner were quoted as saying the studio will release its movies on both formats, others believe this is mere posturing to pressure the Blu-ray Disc Association to adopt some features Warner deems critical, including guaranteeing consumers ability to copy discs onto computers for use with home networks and options allowing cheaper disc replication.

But that’s only part of the next-gen DVD format intrigue seen in the last week. Blu-ray supporter and computer industry giant Hewlett-Packard appealed to the Blu-ray Disc Association to formally commit to Managed Copy (which unequivocally allows consumers to copy their content to computers and home networks) and to adopt the iHD interactivity application layer that HD DVD uses rather than the Java-based solution Blu-ray currently favors. These two features were cited as the main reasons that Microsoft and Intel joined ranks with HD DVD, and HP can't be too comfortable being at odds with those two key suppliers on the next-gen disc format.

Warner execs stated that the decision to release discs on both formats is based on their belief that there will be a format war, and that they don't want their customers caught in the middle. But Disney's Bob Chapek believes Blu-ray's momentum is too much for HD DVD to overcome now: "The continued dramatic momentum toward Blu-ray makes us more optimistic than ever that a format war can be avoided."

Toshiba made a statement following the Warner announcement stating that "Toshiba and Warner Bros. continue to collaborate closely toward the commercial launch of HD DVD." Referring to HP's requests to the Blu-ray association, the Toshiba statement noted that the "fact that new voices from within the Blu-ray camp have recently called for adoption of key features already in HD DVD… shows the level of technical balance achieved by the HD DVD format."

All of this posturing aside, it's very hard to imagine Warner or any of the other studios releasing discs in both formats given that all parties involved acknowledge this would be a death knell at retail, confusing consumers and minimizing either format's chances for success. Video Business' Paul Sweeting surmised that these recent goings-on might be laying the groundwork for a compromise format that would adopt Blu-ray's physical disc structure but using the seemingly less expensive and less complicated iHD interactivity layer instead of Blu-ray's Java platform.

Stay tuned.