One important issue that often is omitted from the accounts of the battle over the two new HD formats for DVDs is that both HD-DVD and Blu-ray apparently will be backwards compatible.
So there will be no need to toss out all those still-new DVDs that North American consumers have accumulated in the past couple of years to make room for the new HD discs. Both formats also have something else in common: They are dual-layer and use blue lasers. (In the world of lasers, color matters.) While the HD-DVD format could take hold in North America (according to some early predictions), the Blu-ray format from Sony could capture the rest of the known world, which is a lot of people.
Yet one of the two formats appears to have a leg up on its competitor when it comes to speedy rollout. According to the March-April edition of Vision magazine from the CEA, the HD-DVD format could become more widely available to consumers sooner and at a lower price (at least initially) than Blu-ray discs. It seems that HD-DVD utilizes manufacturing techniques very similar to those used for the current generation of DVDs. Therefore, third-party duplication houses won't have to retool their factories significantly to produce HD-DVDs. This likely will mean HD-DVD discs will be first-to-market by maybe a few months in the United States and Canada (possibly by late this calendar year).
Blu-ray HD discs require a new manufacturing process with higher transition expenditures, although Blu-ray proponents contend that manufacturing costs can be brought nearly in line with HD-DVD's costs during the next year. And while both formats hold several times the content of today's DVDs, Blu-ray holds even more than HD DVD.
And this just in... Conceivably, this whole incompatibility issue might be rendered moot: Some reports began circulating early this week as a result of the Sony management shake-up of a few weeks ago, Blu-ray and HD DVD rightsholders appear to be discussing a possible common standard for both systems. Don't hold your breath, but stay tuned.
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