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HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc Battle Net Video

Apr 2, 2007 12:00 PM


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Toshiba sliced $100 off the price of its HD DVD players effective April 1, a month after Sony announced it would ship a $599 Blu-ray Disc player to dealers this fall. According to a report in Investor’s Business Daily citing NPD Group figures, prices for HD DVD players could sink to $299 by Christmas.

Is that the magic bullet to make next-gen DVD take off, or will a price war between the two competing formats turn out to be a non-issue for consumers? With so many other video options available today, the question many custom installers and consumers may be asking is, “Are lower prices too little too late?”

Consumers who in large part took the slow road to high-definition TV may not feel compelled to junk their standard-def DVD players for the next big thing—especially if it’s disc-based. Just as few consumers in the iPod age have been wowed by high-definition Super Audio CD and DVD-Audio, Blu-ray and HD-DVD players have yet to capture the public’s fancy. The incremental improvement in quality may not be enough to warrant adding another piece of gear—expensive gear at that—to the stack.

It may be that what consumers really want is a whole new way to get their video. The YouTube phenomenon is one example of consumers preferring a breadth of content options over picture and sound quality. And the advent of Internet-based devices, including Apple TV and Netgear's EVA8000 point to a future of on-demand downloading, where consumers invisibly rack video titles without the need for storage beyond a high-cap disk drive. They can then distribute that video to another TV in the home over a wired or wireless home network.

The trend hasn’t been lost on consumer electronics suppliers. Sony has built Video Link capability into its Bravia line of TVs for 2007, which will enable consumers to access a finite menu of video programming from providers including AOL, Yahoo, Grouper, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Sony BMG music. Video Link is a small outboard box that connects via Ethernet and slips into custom slots on Bravia TVs. The price of the Video Link has yet to be set. Delivery is slated for July.

Despite the hype, video via Internet and a home network is far from a smooth ride. Apple TV users must punch in a code on the PC before being able to access content on the TV. The extra steps required to protect content from distribution over the net are sure to frustrate couch spuds used to changing sources with a single click.

And although Apple TV requires a high-def TV, it only passes through compressed high-def signals (You can connect a high-def camcorder and view your own HD content at a converted 720p frame rate). That’s just what the industry needs: more confusion about what is and what isn’t HD TV.

Add to these options Microsoft’s Xbox, Vista-based Media Center PCs, and a wave of other video distribution gadgets, and Blu-ray and HD-DVD might just get lost in the pack.



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