Despite the HD optical disc format wars between HD-DVD and Blu-ray, it’s apparent that another important piece of the high definition jigsaw puzzle will fall into place as the product becomes available to U.S. consumers within the next few months.
One of the more frequently overlooked aspects of Blu-ray is its underlying use of the Sun Microsystems Java programming language to bring a high level of interactivity to the optical disc format.
With deliveries of Blu-ray players to U.S. consumers due shortly, HD Technology Update approached Bill Sheppard, Senior Industry Marketing Manager of Emerging Markets, to discuss the role of Java in the format. Sheppard also shed some light on the High Definition Audio-Video Network Alliance (HANA), which Sun Microsystems helped to found.
HD Technology Update: Sun Microsystems announced in January of 2005 that it would become a member of the Blu-ray Disc Association and back the format. What was the thinking behind backing Blu-ray and did Sun do so to the exclusion of HD-DVD?
Bill Sheppard: The Blu-ray Disc Association made a decision early on to base the format on Java technology. So it only made sense to join and help ensure BD-J is well-synchronized with other digital TV specifications based on Java, specifically OCAP (OpenCable Application Platform) for U.S. cable companies and MHP (Multimedia Home Platform) for the rest of the world, and that both the Blu-ray and the MHP/OCAP communities would benefit from the common Java-based platform.
HDTU: Now that Blu-ray has made its official debut in the United States at CES and will be rolled out soon, could you please discuss what unique interactive Java capabilities developers are using to create new revenue opportunities in movie and game applications?
BS: Nothing is released yet, so I will speak to what’s expected. It is really very open-ended. We anticipate the studios will put their creative talent to work here. With Java as an interactive platform, there are few limitations on the kind of content that can be created. Some ideas include downloading new content for use with an old movie. For instance, a year after a movie has been released on Blu-ray, consumers would still see current trailers and information related to the movie rather than just what was present when they made their original purchase. There’s also the possibility of enable e-commerce, such as making available clothing or goods featured in the film, or enabling the purchase of different formats of the movie for display on a video iPod or to be moved to the home PC.
Other interactive sorts of applications might include chatting with the producer or director of movie at a specific time, or a chat room and/or a message forum you can access as you are watching.
In terms of gaming, there is lots of opportunity for creating games related to the movie, including networked multiplayer games. Moving beyond strictly movie titles, there is great potential to use the Java platform to enhance educational or children's titles. Live help could be provided, or updated content as you progress through the title. The Java platform will allow an application to evolve over time and provide continually refreshed content.
There is also the user interface for the movie itself. Today, DVDs have a fairly common look and feel. The graphics change but the way you interact with the DVD doesn’t change much. Move up and move down, make a selection. With the Blu-ray Disc Java platform, the interface can be changed to reflect the feel of the movie. “The Matrix” could have a futuristic type interface reflecting the tone of the movie, while children’s’ titles could have much simpler interfaces. There’s much more flexibility for the creative community to adapt an interface to its target audience.
HDTU: Late last year, Sun announced it would be participating as a founding member of the HANA Alliance, which has as one of its goals making the home HD experience easier for consumers — especially in terms of connectivity. Please describe the barriers as you see them.
Bill Sheppard: Today, you have typically, a monitor or display system, a cable set-top box, DVD player, home audio system, perhaps multiples of some of those components. Each has a remote, and frequently each component needs to be connected to every other component. How do you select the right input on the TV and receiver? Which remote should be used? These are the things that are impediments for many consumers to creating a HD home theatre system.
HANA has a vision that this can all be greatly improved. Each component can be connected by only a single cable and one remote control can control the entire system, where the devices have enough intelligence to pass controls to other devices to execute what the consumer is trying to do. The goal is to simplify hook up, and simplify how you would operate all the devices, such as scheduling a recording or turning on a particular surround mode.
HDTU: Please describe Sun’s DReaM (Digital Rights Management everywhere available) technology and the role you see it playing in a HANA compliant implementation.
BS: DRM is clearly an important part of the content landscape, and it is also an area that has been very proprietary and can complicate the interconnection of devices. It can also put a single company in control of a system in a way that consumers or other vendors may not want.
DReaM is intended to enable digital rights management in an open standard, royalty-free framework. We believe helping to create a royalty-free DRM solution will help the industry progress much more quickly in bringing solutions to the consumer. HANA doesn’t depend on DReaM, but DReaM will work well within the HANA environment.
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