View Full Version : An in depth look at: Origins of the Format War
12-22-2007, 02:07 AM
Earlier this month Nelson and I exchanged a couple of posts regarding this story on the internet.
Roughly Drafted: Origins of the Blu-ray vs HD-DVD War
Nelson felt it was accurate but I didn't agree. I had some time recently to go through this piece and try to present the facts where there were mistakes as well as an alternative point of view on the more opinion oriented parts.
If the format war isn't of interest to you, you've already gone too far. For those interested in the history read on.
I prepared this response, but received fact checking assistance and input from Amir Majidimehr who works for Microsoft and has been involved with HD DVD professionally. Perhaps this can help clear up some common misconceptions about the origin of the two formats and their history.
Color Code Guide:
Quotes and references
12-22-2007, 02:14 AM
Daniel Eran Dilger
The arrival of DVD gave consumers far higher video quality in a new compact disc format with a variety of practical advantages over existing VHS tapes. There was no format war related to DVD because the two groups developing a new consumer video disc gave up their differences and worked together. Consumers didn’t have to chose a format or worry about obsolescence. So why did the world return to a format war with HD?
A United Forum for DVD.
Sony and Philips worked together in the late 70s to develop the audio CD. Philip’s work on LaserDisc and Sony’s digital error correction encoding resulted in a huge leap forward for consumer audio that delivered high quality sound on a durable medium with instant playback.
In the early 90s, the two companies began collaborating on an inexpensive new video version, called the MultiMedia Compact Disc.
At the same time, a group lead by Toshiba including Pioneer and JVC introduced the SuperDensity Disc. For a year and a half, the two formats tried without much luck to find interest among consumers. In 1995, the groups united to form the DVD Consortium, later called the DVD Forum. That cooperation helped the single new DVD format to rapidly gain adoption.
Daniel portrays a friendly compromise where Toshiba and Sony came together as one. This is not the case at all. IBM brokered the “compromise” that gave the lion’s share of the IP royalties to Toshiba and left Sony and Philips with minimal IP royalties. There was likely some heavy arm twisting on IBM’s part to get Sony and Philips to back down like this, especially since Sony still hasn’t forgotten about Betamax.
Philips's development of the Laserdisc way back in 1969 yielded many of the technologies Sony carried over and adopted when they partnered with Philips. This helped create the groundbreaking CD in '79. The same companies worked together again in the early 1990s to create a new high-density disc called the MultiMedia Compact Disc (MMCD). However, this format was eventually forsaken in favour of Toshiba's Super Density Disc (SD), having the majority of backers at the time, including Mitsubishi, Hitachi, Matsushita (Panasonic), Pioneer, Time Warner and Thomson.
The two factions cut a deal, brokered by IBM president Lou Gerstner, on a new format – the common DVD disc we all know and love. After the dust settled in 1995/1996 Toshiba found themselves at the top of the pack, leaving Sony and Philips, who weren't fully ‘in’ on the deal’s standard technology, to begin work on a next generation system. Angered by this, Sony looked for new technological developments to outdo its rivals. In fact the Professional Disc for DATA (PDD or ProDATA), was based on an optical disc system Sony had been developing in the background. This eventually became the Blu-ray disc. Not to be outdone by the pair, Toshiba waded in with its next generation system - the Advanced Optical Disc. This soon evolved into the HD-DVD.
12-22-2007, 02:17 AM
Building Industry Standards.
DVDs use ISO standard MPEG-2 video compression and digital audio, typically delivered as Dolby Digital AC-3 or DTS surround sound. Using standard, interoperable formats based on patent pools from established technical leaders meant that DVDs could be delivered by any hardware manufacturer under reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing.
This statement is correct in regard to MPEG-2 but wrong in regard to both DTS and Dolby AC-3. These were proprietary technologies at the time of selection in DVD and were not developed in a standards organization. The same is true of their newer variations used in HD DVD and Blu-ray. They do not operate under a patent pool but offer non-discriminatory licensing.
12-22-2007, 02:19 AM
In the late 90s, Apple began work with the ISO to deliver a successor to the MPEG-2 container used by DVDs. Microsoft proposed its own replacement for MPEG-2 based upon a new container file it called the Advanced Streaming Format.
In 1998, the ISO chose Apple’s proven QuickTime container format over Microsoft’s proposed ASF, dashing Microsoft’s plans to use its desktop monopoly power to simply brush aside technical superiority and establish control of the digital media industry by fiat.
Microsoft proposed their ASF file format, which was an open spec published on the Microsoft web site (see link below). Apple proposed the file format they had developed for Quicktime. A file format is just that, a container to store bits. It has no relationship to any operating system or codec. MPEG requires reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing for any file format chosen for the MPEG systems layer. As such, it provides no opportunity for Microsoft or Apple to gain any advantage. Apple’s Quicktime file format was selected, this is really the only accurate statement in this section.
12-22-2007, 02:20 AM
Windows Media vs the World.
With the rest of the industry aligned behind an open container format based on QuickTime, Microsoft worked to find a different way to tie digital media to Windows.
MPEG was busy developing standards to be used for broadcast and optical formats, it was not focused on delivering solutions for low bandwidth Internet connections like dial-up modems (which were common at the time). Companies such as Real Networks and Microsoft invested in developing their own audio and video compression technologies to deliver reasonable audio and video on the Internet.
12-22-2007, 02:21 AM
The company had developed a proprietary implementation of the H.263 codec (also known as MPEG-4 Part 2, and similar to DivX), which it had tied to its ASF container file. This combination is generally referred to as the Windows Media 9 or WMV format. However, without broad industry support, WMV wasnít likely to make progress beyond the Windows PC.
This is simply wrong. H.263 is the basis of MPEG-4 part 2 but is a different (ITU) standard. Microsoft however, was quite active in development of MPEG-4 ASP/Part 2 and is one of the patent holders in the license and is a contributor to this open video compression standard. Microsoft decided that MPEG-4 Part 2 was not efficient enough for delivery of content on the Internet, so they invested in an internal development effort on what became known as WMV-9 and now, VC-1 in the world of HD DVD and Blu-ray. It achieved double the compression efficiency/quality of MPEG-4 Part 2.
VC-1 is the open specifications for WMV, which is the result of a two year review and scrutiny by Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineering (SMPTE). VC-1 is licensed by MPEG LA (the same organization that licenses MPEG-2 and AVC/MPEG-4) using patent pools for the licensors and provides reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing to hardware and software manufacturers who are licensees.
12-22-2007, 02:23 AM
At the same time, Apple and other companies were working with the ISO’s Motion Pictures Experts Group to develop what would become MPEG 4 Part 10 or H.264 video, standardized inside of the QuickTime-based MPEG-4 container. The combination is commonly called the Advanced Video Codec, or AVC.
Daniel neglects to mention that the chair of the MPEG-4 Part 10/H.264 was Dr. Sullivan who was and still is working for Microsoft in the same division which developed Windows Media and VC-1.
Gary J. Sullivan is an electrical (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrical) engineer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engineer) who led the development of the H.264 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H.264) AVC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Video_Coding)eo coding standard and created the DirectX Video Acceleration (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DirectX_Video_Acceleration) (DXVA) API (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/API)DDI (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Device_driver) video decoding feature of the Microsoft Windows (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Windows)ģ operating system platform. He was the chairmen of the (Joint Video Team (JVT (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JVT))) standardization committee that developed the H.264/AVC standard, and he edited large portions of it. He also chaired and contributed to a number of other video-related standardization projects such as extensions of ITU-T (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ITU-T) H.263 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H.263).”
Microsoft contributed significantly to the development of the standard through a number of technologies and is also a patent holder and licensee in the MPEG LA patent pool for MPEG-4 Part 10 or AVC/H.264 video.
12-22-2007, 02:29 AM
To skirt around the open plans being built upon industry standards and simply beat them to market with its proprietary technology, Microsoft began recommending the use of its Windows Media 9 to deliver HD video files on regular DVDs, enabling consumers to play back HD content on the discs using a Windows PC or potentially new player equipment that licensed Microsoftís playback software.
Both AVC/MPEG-4 and VC1 are open video codecs. Companies can create their own encoders for AVC/MPEG-4 or VC1. As noted in the links above Microsoft is a licensor and licensee of AVC/MPEG-4 as well as a licensor and licensee of VC1. It seems strange that Daniel objects to Microsoft investing time and money on media technologies that are being licensed through MPEG LA under reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing. Maybe he received bad information from someone on this point.
12-22-2007, 02:30 AM
Microsoft’s iHD Plan.
In order to accelerate interest in the idea, Microsoft announced plans with Disney CEO Michael Eisner in 2002 to deliver HD enhanced new DVD content using WMV and an interactive menu system based on Microsoft’s Windows CE called iHD.
Daniel seems to be confusing codecs and interactive technology. The two have nothing to do with each other. Nor is interactivity tied to any OS (otherwise, it would never be approved by the DVD Forum for inclusion in the HD DVD spec). Specifically, iHD (or HDi as it is called now) has no requirement to be used with Windows CE or WMV.
It is true that Microsoft worked with Disney on the creation of interactivity system for HD formats. The standard however, is platform and OS independent. The clearest example of this is that HDi first shipped to market in the 1st gen Toshiba HD DVD players which run Linux as their operating system.
HDi is based on open web standards (XML) which makes it very easy for web developers to become familiar with it. This is the reason that there are hundreds of HD DVD discs (nearly every title) with HDi interactivity whereas there are less than 30 Blu-ray discs released that are using BD-J. BD-J requires a greater degree of programming experience, which is why the even the Blu-ray technical committee investigating HDi recommended it in place of BD-J, which had previously been selected.
12-22-2007, 02:32 AM
By tying specialized new non-standard DVDs to its iHD and Windows Media file formats, Microsoft hoped to eventually earn royalty payments and licensing fees for every movie sold, just as it does for every PC. Additionally, this would also tie HD development into Windows, preventing playback on Linux, Macs, or any other platforms.
Again, this is simply wrong. The DVD forum owns the specifications for HD DVD Advanced Interactivity and anyone can license the specifications from them. They can then develop the technology without any reliance on Microsoft. In fact the LG and Samsung dual format players as well as PC playback applications for HD DVD (like PowerDVD Ultra) are implemented without the use of Microsoft HDi code.
Microsoft will be involved in the patent pool for HD DVD as will every other company who has technology in it. The same is true of Sun Microsystems which developed Java for Blu-ray. Since patent pools have non-discriminatory provisions, no tie-in can exist with any operating system or who is licensing the technology. Every claim in the above paragraph is simply wrong.
12-22-2007, 02:33 AM
Playback of the HD content on these new DVDs outside of a Windows PC begged the arrival of new players licensing Microsoft’s codecs and its WinCE based iHD. Essentially, new players would incorporate a small computer to run the iHD menus. That got the attention of Intel, which liked the idea of building an Intel-based PC into every new DVD player in order to support Microsoft’s plans.
Both HD DVD and Blu-ray need “small computers” to run the interactivity. Interactivity in both formats works with all three codecs supported: MPEG-2, AVC/MPEG-4 and VC-1. So no tie-in exists between HDi and any codec. Companies are free to use whatever processor they want. The 1st and 2nd generation HD DVD players used Intel CPUs. The current 3rd generation HD DVD players use an NEC MIPS processor. There has never been a requirement for any given family of processors.
There’s nothing about iHD (now known as HDi) that requires it to run on Windows and per earlier note, it would have never been allowed in the HD DVD spec if it required it. HDi can and has been ported to run on non-Microsoft platforms. The best example of this is the 1st generation HD DVD players (HD-A1 and HD-XA1) which run Linux as their OS with Microsoft’s HDi as their XML interface for Advanced Interactive functionality. Toshiba chose WinCE for their 2nd generation HD DVD players, where as Samsung and LG chose Linux for their new players and their own implementation of HDi/Advanced Interactivity.
12-22-2007, 02:34 AM
The DVD Forum Goes HD: 2003.
To deliver HD video, the DVD Forum determined that a new disc format would be required to deliver greater bandwidth and capacity over the existing DVD. The two candidates advanced both planned to use a new generation of blue-violet lasers to pack much more data into the same sized disc:
Sony outlined plans for a consumer version of its high end Professional Disc for Data, adapted to use the ISO’s MPEG-4.
Toshiba presented the idea of a DVD mechanism retooled with a blue-violet laser called Advanced Optical Disc.
In 2003, it was expected Sony wouldn’t be able to complete its new Blu-ray before 2005, but Toshiba said it could deliver AOD by 2004. The DVD Forum selected AOD as the official successor to DVD, and subsequently renamed it to HD-DVD.
Here’s what actually happened in the DVD forum.
DVD Forum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DVD_Forum) (which was chaired by Toshiba (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toshiba) was deeply split over whether to go with the more expensive blue lasers or not. In addition, the proposed Blu-ray disc with its protective caddy was both expensive and physically different from DVD, posing several problems. In March 2002, the forum voted to approve a proposal endorsed by Warner Bros. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warner_Bros.) and other motion picture studios (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_studio) that involved compressing HD content onto dual-layer DVD-9 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DVD-9) discs. However, in spite of this decision, the DVD Forum's Steering Committee announced in April that it was pursuing its own blue-laser high-definition solution. In August, Toshiba and NEC announced their competing standard Advanced Optical Disc. It was finally adopted by the DVD forum and renamed HD DVD (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HD_DVD) the next year, after being voted down twice by Blu-ray Disc Association members, prompting the U.S. Department of Justice to make preliminary investigations into the situation. Three new members had to be invited and the voting rules changed before the vote finally passed.
In the mean time, Sony spun off Professional Disc for DATA (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professional_Disc_for_DATA) from the Blu-ray project. It was essentially Blu-ray with higher-quality media and components. The devices were too expensive for the consumer mass market. Instead, it was aimed at the professional data storage space market as a replacement for their line of 5.25" drives. It was announced in October 2003, with the first devices shipping in December of the same year.
12-22-2007, 02:38 AM
Microsoft, worried that the new HD formats would eclipse its DVD+WMV plan, hoped to get both groups to adopt its iHD for interactive menus and use its WMV video codecs. After finding resistance to using its proprietary WMV over the standard MPEG-4, Microsoft had the SMPTE publish its Windows Media 9 codec under the name VC-1.
A condition to submitting a video codec to DVD Forum (and Blu-ray group) was that the spec be open. Prior to submitting its codec to the DVD forum then, Microsoft committed to opening up its specifications which it later did by submitting it to SMPTE. Microsoft willingly chose to open VC-1 for the opportunity to be included in the HD DVD and Blu-ray standards.
Microsoft now humorously refers to Windows Media 9 as “an implementation of the VC-1 standard.”
VC-1 is a standard licensed by MPEG LA using patent pools to licensees under reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing terms. Companies are free to call their implementation anything they like. Since WMV is compliant with VC-1 specifications, Microsoft chose to continue to use that name.
12-22-2007, 02:39 AM
The specification for both HD-DVD and Blu-ray require players to support both MPEG-4 and VC-1, and movies can be encoded in either. Most HD-DVDs use VC-1, and most Blu-ray movies use MPEG.
The DVD Forum ran two rounds of blind testing with VC-1, MPEG-4, MPEG-2 and other proprietary codecs. VC-1 won both rounds of testing in achieving the best picture quality as compared to the reference. This led to its mandatory inclusion in the HD DVD standard. Despite this, the Blu-ray companies resisted inclusion of advanced codecs by nearly two years, and stayed with MPEG-2 only, despite participating in the above tests. Eventually Blu-ray decided to adopt support for the same three video codecs that HD DVD had chosen, namely, MPEG-2, AVC/MPEG-4 and VC1.
The choice of which video codec to use is up to the studios and not dependent on the format. Sony Pictures, for example chose to use MPEG-2 for every Blu-ray title they shipped in 2006. Most HD DVDs do use VC-1. The most common codec found on Blu-ray discs is still MPEG-2 to this day. Studios have the choice of switching away from VC-1 any time they wish. The fact that it continues to be so popular is a testament to the quality of the codec and its implementation.[/font]
The initial version of Sony's Blu-ray Disc-authoring software shipped with support for only 1 video-codec: MPEG-2. Consequently, all launch titles were encoded in MPEG-2 video. A subsequent update allowed the content producers to author titles in any of the 3 supported codecs: MPEG-2, VC-1 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VC-1), or H.264 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H.264). The choice of codecs affects the producer's licensing/royalty costs, as well as the title's maximum runtime (due to differences in compression efficiency). Discs encoded in MPEG-2 video typically limit content producers to around two hours of high-definition content on a single-layer (25 GB) BD-ROM. The more advanced video codecs (VC-1 and H.264) typically achieve a video runtime twice that of MPEG-2, with comparable quality.
12-22-2007, 02:41 AM
Sony Continues Work on Blu-ray.
Unconvinced that Toshiba’s HD-DVD plan would be deliverer on time, Sony continued work on Blu-ray. Despite promises that HD-DVD would be much cheaper to produce and could be delivered by the existing DVD player manufacturers with just minor adjustments to their assembly lines, by the end of 2005 no HD-DVD players had arrived.
Sony continued development of Blu-ray because Betamax lost to VHS and MMCD lost to DVD. Sony wants the IP royalty stream from the next generation movie media, just as Toshiba does.
It’s not the DVD player assembly lines that Toshiba was concerned about, but the DVD disc replication lines. The transition to HD DVD requires an upgrade to existing DVD replication equipment, which then allows it to produce DVD and HD DVD discs. The cost for this upgrade is about $250K. In addition, every modern DVD line purchased today is capable of producing DVDs or HD DVDs with switch over time measured in minutes. This allows replicators to fully utilize the investment by sharing replication capacity between the formats. What’s more, they have no fear or obsolescence, should the HD format not garner substantial market as the lines are perfectly good for production of DVD.
To transition to Blu-ray requires entirely new Blu-ray replication equipment which can only produce Blu-ray discs. To this day Sony is doing the majority of the Blu-ray disc replication in their DADC facilities. There are few other facilities that can do Blu-ray replication, and while other replicators have been trying to replicate BD-50s, their yields remain exceptionally lo and well below that of DVD and HD DVD. You will find some smaller replicators that offer 25GB BD discs, but even these are farmed out to Sony DADC as the small replicators haven’t invested in Blu-ray equipment. Blu-ray replication equipment costs between 3-5 million dollars.
12-22-2007, 02:43 AM
Meanwhile, Sony continued to build up support behind its technically superior Blu-ray, which promised to store 25 GB per disc layer compared to 15 GB for HD-DVD. In addition to technical work, Sony had also assembled a coalition behind Blu-ray that included critical content producers.
Later on Daniel says that 25 GB is plenty of space for movie storage. He neglects to mention here that the vast majority of HD DVD discs are 30 GB in size. In addition, about 18% of published HD DVD titles are of the combo variety which is backward compatible with current DVD players with an extra 9GB of DVD storage. This allows studios the option of producing a single disc for both DVD and HD DVD playback. Consumers get the benefit of buying a single disc they can use in their new HD DVD player as well as their existing DVD players. This is an important benefit when you consider that there are over a billion DVD players in consumer’s hands. Blu-ray does not have the flexibility to produce a single disc with both DVD and Blu-ray playback capability.
12-22-2007, 02:45 AM
In 2004, Sony had bought MGM, expanding its influence. The next year, Eisner announced his departure and Disney aligned behind Blu-ray. The majority of the DVD Forum members also announced support for Blu-ray in addition to the official recommendation of HD-DVD. Among them was HP, which joined the Blu-ray Disc Association in early 2004.
Yes, in 2004 Sony added to their Columbia Pictures content with the purchase of MGM. Sony learned from their Betamax loss and decided they needed a larger pool of Sony owned content. By keeping this content exclusive to a Sony backed format like Blu-ray, they are hoping they can force consumers to buy products that contain mostly Sony IP (intellectual property) if they want to see it in HD. What would Danielís reaction be if Microsoft started buying studios to ensure people had to use more Microsoft IP to view their content in HD?
Shu also seemingly buys into the company line that the Betamax loss taught Sony the importance of controlling content. If Sony owned the rights to popular movies, that argument goes, then the company could have created demand for its playback system by releasing those movies only in Beta. That interesting, if ignoble, idea sounds all the more appealing when you've got properties like Spiderman and Michael Jackson in your stable.
However, no stable can ever be big enough to hold every horse anyone could ever want. While it may be Idei's vision to have Sony profit at each step of the value chain, what happens to owners of Toshiba computers who want to see the latest Sony Pictures release? Will the gate swing open only for those with Sony equipment?
12-22-2007, 02:48 AM
Blu-ray Says No to Microsoft, and Vice Versa: 2004.
[FONT='Arial','sans-serif']HP in turn invited Microsoft to also support Blu-ray for playback under Windows, which HP would need for the Blu-ray equipped PCs it sold. According to an article by Peter Burrows in BusinessWeek, Microsoft demanded that the Blu-ray group adopt its WinCE-based iHD for developing interactive content (since renamed to HDi) in order to sign on.
Somewhat ironically, the Blu-ray group had already adopted BDj, an interactive authoring system developed by HP. BDj is based upon Sun’s Java platform. Content developed for BDj is intended to be easily adapted for delivery not just on Blu-ray disc, but also over cable systems.
The Blu-ray Disc Association “did a three month side-by-side evaluation and concluded that iHD didn’t offer enough advantages to make a switch worthwhile,” Burrows reported. “Microsoft was livid.” In September 2005, Microsoft and Intel announced their exclusive support for HD-DVD, which had already included HDi as a mandatory part of the specification.
The BDA’s own technical working group evaluated HDi and found it superior to BD-J/Java by majority vote (7-5). The technical committee recommended to the board that HDi be selected over BD-J. The BDA board however, overturned that recommendation (10-4 with 2 abstentions). Still, even at the board level, companies like Disney and Sony voted in favor of HDi. This is a strong testament to the advantages of HDi. It should at least raise some eyebrows when a standards group chooses to over ride the work of its own technical group in a matter which should have been decided on the technical merits.
Attempts to avoid a format war
[FONT='Arial','sans-serif']The costs of a format war are large, both for consumers and for the industry. In an attempt to avoid starting one, the Blu-ray Disc Association and the DVD Forum attempted to negotiate a compromise in early 2005. One of the issues was that the Blu-ray camp wanted to use a Java-based platform for interactivity, while the DVD Forum was promoting Microsoft's "iHD" (which became HDi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HDi_Interactive_Format)). A much larger issue, though, was the physical formats of the discs themselves; the Blu-ray member companies did not want to risk losing billions of dollars in royalties as they had done with standard DVD. An agreement seemed close, but negotiations proceeded slowly.
At the end of June 2005, Sun announced that the Blu-ray Association had chosen the Java-based BD-J interactivity layer instead of Microsoft's HDi. This was based on a BDA board vote favouring BD-J 10 to 4, despite a technical committee previously favouring HDi by a vote of 7 to 5. At the same time, Microsoft and Toshiba jointly announced that they would cooperate in developing high-definition DVD players. In a top-level meeting in July, Microsoft's Bill Gates argued that the Blu-ray standard had to change to "work more smoothly with personal computers". The Blu-ray Disc Association's representatives defended the technology.
August 22 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/August_22) 2005 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005), the Blu-ray Disc Association and DVD Forum announced that the negotiations to unify their standards had failed. Rumours surfaced that an "unnamed partner" had pressured Toshiba to stick with HD DVD—in spite of Blu-ray's strong support among Hollywood studios and some analysts saying that HD DVD's days were numbered—but these rumours were denied by the parties involved; instead, the same reasons of physical format incompatibility were cited. At the end of September, Microsoft and Intel jointly announced their support for HD DVD.
This is an older article, but somewhat prophetic. To this day there are less than 30 titles on Blu-ray that use BD-J while there are hundreds of titles in HD DVD using HDi (nearly every HD DVD title).
Driving the HD DVD Juggernaut: Microsoft's Amir Majidimehr
Was that web standard Java?
No, actually, we don't use Java. That was the competing solution [eventually for Blu-ray]. We used XML, or XHTML, which you may have heard about on the web. We use Scripting -- which is a language behind web pages that can enable dynamic content -- plus graphics and real-time response. So you can have all these things happen while the movie is playing.
We combined it all together, and presented the specification to the DVD Forum. It ultimately won out over Java. I believe that when the DVD Forum Working Group voted, Java only got two votes and HDi got nineteen votes. Even Blu-ray-supporting companies voted for it. Apple and others voted for it, too. Because it is much simpler and much more elegant than Java.
The Blu-ray group also considered HDi, and their Working Group actually gave the majority vote to adopt it as well. But their board decided to overrule their Working Group and go with Java instead. Java is a powerful language, and a powerful platform, no doubt about it. But it has those worries we initially had developing HDi -- issues with complexity, time to market and how many bugs it would have.
And you've seen the results -- we have many titles [on HD DVD] that use HDi, and basically none of those experiences and titles have come out on Blu-ray. Or if they have, they don't have the same functionality and features. You can see all difficulties we have predicted have come true. You can't expect the creative people who make discs to become programmers. And that's what Java requires.
12-22-2007, 02:53 AM
Bill Hunt of Digital Bits explained to InternetNews that Toshiba was ready to drop HD-DVD and join Blu-ray in 2005 until an unnamed company, which Hunt believes to be Microsoft, “pressured the company to stick with HD DVD since so much time and money had been invested in it.”
“Everything I’ve been told,” Hunt said, “is a lot of people in the HD DVD camp were ready to throw in the towel in late 2005 and something kept them from doing it. Microsoft seems to be the company that is running around crowing the loudest about HD DVD.”
Bill Hunt wasn’t at any of the meetings and doesn’t site any sources for his information, so I’m not sure how he formed his opinion on what happened at this meeting. His assertions above are strongly contested by Microsoft as the unification talks did not involve Microsoft in any way. Besides, Toshiba has much more at stake than Microsoft. They’re receiving the lion’s share of the royalties from DVD today, and they want to see that continue with the next generation of the format, HD DVD. Why would anyone expect them to roll over to Sony and give them control of this revenue stream without a fight?
The other part of the article Daniel doesn’t quote is this:
And now it seems the physical layer was also an issue. Mark Knox, an adviser to the Toshiba HD DVD division for Toshiba America consumer products, also denied that Microsoft sabotaged the deal, and said that format structure was non-negotiable with Sony.
"I was told the basic presentation from Toshiba and other HD constituents was 'We're willing to put everything on the table if you are willing to put everything on the table and have our engineering teams pick everything that makes the most sense,'" he said.
That included disc structure, one of the biggest differences between HD DVD and Blu-ray. "The response we got was short and succinct, that disc structure was not on the table, we [Sony] will not discuss it. That put an end to discussions with them being inflexible at that point," said Knox.
There's a reason for Sony's intransigence on the subject. Back in 1995, there were two competing formats called Super Density CD from Toshiba, Matsushita, Time-Warner and JVC, and MMCD, or Multimedia CD from Sony and Philips. IBM came in and acted as mediator, merging the two technologies into what is now DVD. But to do so, Sony caved on the disc structure, costing it billions in royalty revenue.
"Looking at the history of the original DVD, I can understand why" Sony wouldn't cave again, said Knox.
12-22-2007, 02:56 AM
HD-DVD Troubles: 2006.
The hardware required to play HD video and WinCE-based HDi posed a big problem for Toshiba’s HD-DVD players that overshadowed the somewhat simpler disc player mechanism they use compared to Blu-ray. Toshiba’s first HD-DVD player, the HD-A1, wasn’t released until early 2006, two years later than promised.
When Toshiba launched the 1st generation HD-A1 and HD-XA1 in April 2006, they were launching a feature complete platform, not an interim solution. Blu-ray launched their first player in July 2006 (Samsung BD-P1000) but to do so, they had to break the format up into profile 1.0, 1.1 and 2.0. Profile 1.0 is what is frequently referred to as the interim profile. After October 31, 2007 player manufacturers are no longer allowed to release profile 1.0 players (but they can continue to sell existing models).
The BDA "clarifies" the Profile 1.1 mandate (PIP)
We don't know about anyone else, but we've been a little confused about this so-called mandatory profile 1.1 deadline of October 31st 2007 (http://engadgethd.com/2007/03/24/blu-ray-players-get-a-new-standard-set-of-features-this-october/). While some couldn't care less about PIP, -- or any other extras on their HD movies -- who wants to buy a player that doesn't support everything Blu-ray has to offer? The reason we're confused is because manufacturers like Sony just released a players right before the deadline (http://www.engadgethd.com/2007/10/16/sony-sneaks-bdp-s500-in-before-1-1-goes-mandatory/) and Samsung's new BD-UP5000 is 1.1 "ready"
The first 1.1 (standard profile) player was released in November 2007, the Panasonic DMP-BD30. The second profile 1.1 player on the market is the LG-BH200 which fully supports both HD DVD and Blu-ray 1.1, the third profile 1.1 player on the market is the Samsung BD-UP5000 which also fully supports both HD DVD and Blu-ray 1.1. The PS3 just became profile 1.1 compliant with the 2.10 software release on December 18, 2007.
The standard HD DVD spec that all players (from the 1st gen up) support the same type of features as Blu-ray profile 2.0. Profile 2.0 is considered an optional profile, so these features may always remain a niche in the Blu-ray market as opposed to being a basic standard as they are in all HD DVD players. There is still no release date for any profile 2.0 players. LG has said their LG-BH200 universal player will be upgradeable to profile 2.0, but there is no release date for this profile.
To sum up, we’re still waiting for 2.0 BD players and we’re still waiting for Blu-ray titles to start taking advantage of the recently released 1.1 profile. In comparison HD DVD is already far ahead in providing the full feature set advertised by the format and has been shipping titles with advanced interactive and web enabled features for some time. By any fair evaluation, HD DVD has a commanding lead in delivering what has been promised by both formats for the next generation of HD Optical.
12-22-2007, 02:59 AM
In order to run Microsoft’s WinCE-based HDi menus and render HD video, it incorporated a PC: a Pentium 4 processor, 1 GB of RAM, a 256 MB Flash drive, and 32 MB of additional Flash RAM. A parts breakdown revealed that the components alone cost around $674, even without manufacturing costs, bundled accessories, packaging, and other expenses.
Toshiba sold the $500 players at a large loss to encourage uptake of HD-DVD prior to the release of the first Blu-ray players, which debuted around $1000 a few weeks later. Once again, Microsoft’s answer to a technology problem is to turn it into a PC running Windows, just as:
Considering that Sony was subsidizing the PS3 at a greater loss than Toshiba was doing on their 1st generation HD DVD players, this doesn’t prove much other than Toshiba is willing to spend money to preserve their revenue stream, just as Sony would like to capture this revenue stream. The costs below are just for the components.
The cost of manufacturing and materials for the low-end, 20GB version of the console comes to $805.85, iSuppli said in a report (http://www.isuppli.com/news/default.asp?id=6919) Thursday. That means that for every PS3 Sony sells for $499, it will lose $306.85 on components alone. Marketing and advertising costs would then boost the actual cost to Sony even higher.
The PS3 with the 60GB hard drive comes with a manufacturing and component bill of $840.35. Since it sells that version of $599, the component bill exceeds the retail price by $241.35, iSuppli said. A Sony representative would not comment on the PS3's manufacturing costs.
12-22-2007, 03:02 AM
The Xbox is a repackaged PC running Windows for games. The WinCE-based Handheld PC, Palm PC, and Pocket PC are all small PCs running a smaller Windows. WebTV, Ultimate TV and Windows XP Media Center were all PCs running Windows as a DVR. Windows Home Server is a PC running as a file server base station.
Is it surprising that Microsoft produces hardware like Xbox that runs Microsoft software? Doesn’t Apple produce hardware that runs Apple software? This is unrelated to HD DVD though. HD DVD can, and has been implemented without the use of any Microsoft software in the LG BH-200 and Samsung BD-UP5000 universal players.
12-22-2007, 03:02 AM
HD War Games.
In November 2006, Microsoft began offering an optional USB HD-DVD player designed for the Xbox 360 for $200, just as Sony released its PlayStation 3, which includes a Blu-ray player. The integrated PS3 cost the same as an Xbox 360 with Microsoft’s optional HD-DVD player.
Sony essentially forced every PS3 customer to buy a Blu-ray player. Microsoft made it an option on the Xbox360 by allowing customers the choice. This forced the price of the PS3 to new heights for a game console and took Sony from 1st place in the games market with the PS2 to 3rd place in the games market with the PS3. This also complicates calculating the installed base of Blu-ray movie watchers. It’s hard to definitively say what percentage are using their PS3 to watch movies. We know as stated above, that only 40% of PS3 owners are aware of the capability. In contrast, anyone buying an HD DVD add-on for an Xbox360 is doing so for one reason, to watch HD DVD movies, because that is all it’s used for. This also makes it much easier to calculate how many HD DVD players are actually in use.
12-22-2007, 03:04 AM
Eight months later, Microsoft reported sales of 155,000 HD-DVD players, while Sony had shipped 6.2 million PS3s. In comparison, Apple sold 270,000 iPhones in its first two days, a figure scoffed at by Windows Enthusiasts, who at the same time seem to think a large number of Xboxes can play HD-DVDs. They also maintain that the PS3 is very expensive.
Apart from the HD-DVD players sold by Microsoft, roughly another 150,000 stand alone players have sold, despite models now being priced as low as $300. Microsoft also dropped the price of its own Xbox 360 HD-DVD player to $180 and offers five movies as an incentive to buy one.
Fewer than 2% of 360 users have opted to buy the optional HD-DVD drive, which is only useful for playing movies. Microsoft announced that 360 games will not be issued on HD-DVD. In contrast, Blu-ray is the native format for PS3 games.
Even considering NPDís report that stated 40% of PS3 users donít know that their game console can play Blu-ray movies, thatís still 3.7 million PS3 users who are aware of Blu-ray for movie playback, compared to less than 0.2 million 360 users, presumable all of whom are aware of their ability to watch HD-DVD movies after buying the drive.
Sales numbers change, so hereís an update.
HD DVD players pass 750,000 unit sales
NPD: XBox 360 HD DVD Player Sales Hit 269K
NPD estimates the HD DVD add-on attach rate at 3.4%. Thatís not bad considering that customers have to make a conscious decision that they want to buy this device to watch HD DVD movies. By the end of 2007 there will likely be at about 1 million HD DVD players in use.
Below are the console sales for all three game platforms. At the moment the PS3 has sold 3.137 million systems in North America since launch. Factoring in the 40% Blu-ray awareness that Daniel quotes means that only 1.25 million PS3 owners are even aware that their console can play Blu-ray discs.
12-22-2007, 03:07 AM
Microsoft’s HD Misinformation War.
Faced with those long odds, Microsoft has been forced to publish a misinformation campaign to spin things more positively. Among the problems HD-DVD supporters have tried to publish about Blu-ray are the ideas that:
Many early Blu-ray titles used MPEG-2 encoding rather than MPEG-4 H.264. In reality, the codec used doesn’t make much of a difference, as MPEG-2 can be used to deliver high bandwidth video. The primary advantage to H.264 over MPEG-2 is more efficient compression, which hasn’t been an issue for Blu-ray discs with a minimum capacity of 25 GB. That’s enough for over 2 hours of HD content, even when using MPEG-2, as well as an additional 2 hours of SD bonus material.
At first Sony blamed Samsung’s BD-P1000 player for the early Blu-ray titles that were getting bad reviews.
Samsung's Blu-ray Player Reportedly Has Faulty Chip
As reported earlier today by A/V magazine The Perfect Vision, Sony exec Don Eklund first brought the issue to Samsung's attention after noticing that the image quality produced by Samsung's BD-P1000 player "...did not match the quality of the master tapes from which the Blu-ray titles were encoded."
Samsung engineers later determined that "the noise-reduction circuit in the player's Genesis scaler chip was enabled, causing the picture to soften significantly."
After a patch was provided from Samsung and reviewers once again complained about poor picture quality, attention turned to MPEG-2 as the culprit. Sony was then forced to defend the fact that every Blu-ray title they released in 2006 used MPEG-2. The MPEG-2 defense by Sony is now over. Since they’ve started shipping their AVC/MPEG-4 encoding equipment they use less MPEG-2 and more AVC/MPEG-4. It’s interesting to see Daniel say that 25GB is plenty of space. This is not the standard talking point you hear from Blu-ray supporters or the BDA.
Blu-ray & HD DVD - Who Has the Upper Hand?
The image quality of early BD disk releases have been beaten up badly, but it's difficult to place blame on the machine. Blu-ray is having problems perfecting dual layering so the largest commercial BD movie disk is only 25Gigs, which makes the new HD DVD movie disks larger at 30 Gigs. The Blu-ray format is suffering for it according to most reviews including this one (http://www.projectorcentral.com/blu-ray_initialreport.htm) at Projector Central the image quality is noticeably worse off than HD-DVD. But this is probably because of the MPEG-2 codec chosen for early Blu-ray movies. It's the same older, slower codec used on standard DVDs.
Since the first Blu-ray titles used single layer 25 GB discs, it became popular to speculate that Blu-ray couldn’t support dual layer discs. That wasn’t true. The first dual layer Blu-ray movies weren’t released until late 2006, but over half of the releases this year have been on dual layer, 50 GB Blu-ray discs. In comparison, a dual layer DVD only holds 8.5 GB, and a dual layer HD-DVD is 30 GB. Both formats can support multiple layers on dual sided discs.
50GB was slow to market due to yield issues. It is hard to say exactly what yields are actually like today as the vast majority of these discs are being made by Sony DADC replication facilities. Sony claims the following.
Sony DADC produces 10 millionth 50GB Blu-ray Disc
"BD25 yield rates and machine output performance have exceeded our expectations. Single layer yields are consistently around 85% and daily machine output levels are approaching parity with our DVD assets," said Mike Mitchell, EVP Sony DADC. "With regard to BD50, yields have increased steadily, and are consistently between 75% and 79%. Cycle times for BD50 have likewise been improved dramatically. As demand for both BD25 and BD50 increases and the production lines are run more consistently, we fully anticipate further yield improvements."
12-22-2007, 03:11 AM
Windows Enthusiasts feared Blu-ray discs would be far more expensive to manufacture. A study by Home Media Magazine reported a difference of only five to ten cents.
People who are Windows Enthusiasts don’t support Blu-ray? Daniel seems to see this format war as Microsoft vs Apple. It’s not.
It is suspected that Sony is absorbing costs on Blu-ray disc production. The cost of new Blu-ray equipment is about 3-5 million dollars and can only be used for Blu-ray replication. This is in contrast to about 250K to upgrade existing DVD replication equipment to also handle HD DVD replication. DVD replication equipment that was made within the last two years is actually already designed to do HD DVD replication as well. Somewhere along the line someone will have to eat the extra cost associated with Blu-ray disc production. If every DVD line is replaced with a Blu-ray line, it will cost more than $2 Billion. Sony is likely hoping for victory in the format war so that they can begin to pass these costs along instead of absorbing them.
Considering that HD DVD is delivering a more polished and complete solution with the flexibility to easily transition both replication facilities and consumers (with combo discs), what is the value proposition of Blu-ray for the movie industry or the consumer?
12-22-2007, 10:38 AM
Ranger: Why is this in the Michael Bay forum? Do you mind if I move it to Filmmaking & Movie Discussion?
12-22-2007, 02:04 PM
Ranger: Why is this in the Michael Bay forum? Do you mind if I move it to Filmmaking & Movie Discussion?
Please feel free to move it. After you move it, I'll get the remainder of the history posted.
12-23-2007, 10:14 AM
Should be good to go, Ranger.
12-23-2007, 01:27 PM
Is Porn a Problem?
Echoing the idea that pornography sales drove the adoption of VHS over Betamax back in the early 80s, it is commonly suggested that porn will turn the tide for HD-DVD. However, in addition the the dubious benefit of HD in the realm of porn, Dan Ackman reported in Forbes back in 2001 that the size of the porn industry is overblown.
While figures of a “$10-11 billion porn industry” are commonly thrown around, there is no basis ever given for this number, which Ackman noted was first casually thrown without substantiation by the often scandalous Forrester Research.
Ackman noted that in 2000, adult videos really only accounted for at most $1.8 billion, compared to $32 billion of broadcast television, $45.5 billion in cable TV, and the $31 billion movie business. Content available over the Internet has helped to keep the porn disc industry from growing. Besides all that, Blu-ray offers no barriers to porn distributors anyway.
More content is always good for a platform. The reason why much of the porn industry went with HD DVD is that they had difficulty finding Blu-ray replication facilities that would take their content for replication. Sony itself has been unwilling to directly provide replication services to the porn industry.
Sony says 'no' to porn on Blu-ray Disc
Sony said it will not work with the adult film industry to help put their movies on its Blu-ray Disc format, although it will not try to stop them completely.
The company will not allow its disc replicating subsidiary, Sony DADC, to handle adult film titles, it said this week. In markets where it operates around the world the company won't duplicate any movies above a certain rating or that have not been certified by a local motion picture association.
Sony wouldn't disclose exactly where it draws the line, but the rule means that adult movie makers will have to find someone else to reproduce their films in bulk. While other companies offer such services, the adult industry feels it is being cut out of the Blu-ray camp altogether.
Subsequently Sony has been trying to court the porn industry to Blu-ray, but it is trying to do so quietly. The porn content producers are releasing mostly on HD DVD as a result.
12-23-2007, 01:38 PM
Banking on Chinese Importers.
With Dell and HP–the largest American PC makers–supporting Blu-ray, Microsoft was left hoping that Chinese manufacturers would crank out cheap HD-DVD players and undercut all the US, European, Japanese, and Korean manufacturers lined up behind Blu-ray.
However, of all the companies in the DVD Forum with the ability to build blue-violet laser disc players, only Toshiba has released any HD-DVD standalone players. Even worse, when LG shipped its hybrid player supporting both formats in January, it arrived without support for Microsoft’s HDi.
Engadget reported good news for Microsoft Enthusiasts when it announced in April that Wal-Mart had lined up a Chinese manufacturer ready to dump HD-DVD players on the US market for $299. It later turned out that those players–which weren’t expected until 2008–were actually Blu-ray devices, a detail that had been lost in translation. Engaget later announced in another correction that Wal-Mart had only been inquiring about orders and hadn’t placed any.
Again, Daniel equates HD DVD to Microsoft users. Are Mac users buying Dell and Sony laptops with Blu-ray drives?
Dell and Sony laptops can only be purchased with Blu-ray for High Def movies. Toshiba laptops can only be purchased with HD DVD for High Def movies. HP and Acer Laptops are available with HD DVD or Blu-ray drives for High Def movies. The first Chinese HD DVD player is available for sale through Target and Walmart. The translations that Daniel was hoping indicated these were Blu-ray players were wrong, they were HD DVD players.
HP hits up Blu-ray Consortium for mandatory managed copy
Looks like HP's putting their foot down on this one; apparently they've informed the Blu-ray Consortium that either the standard gets changed to be a little more consumer friendly, or they're going with HD DVD. We've seen companies (http://www.engadget.com/entry/1234000623059130/) not commit to either HD DVD or Blu-ray for a variety of reasons, or in some cases even commit to both; we've heard the gripes, we've listened to the complaints, we've read the analyses (http://www.engadget.com/entry/1234000053064210/), but we've yet to see a major player actually attempt to coerce one of the format lobbying groups into affecting a change they see as key. The upshot is that it's really not really too late to make changes in either format, which is what HP's hoping to leverage in their request for a changeup in Blu-ray's direction with what's arguably the hottest issue (http://www.engadget.com/entry/1234000890063698/) between the standards right now: mandatory managed copy (i.e. the guarantee that the end user will have the ability to copy movies onto their PC and play them across their home network). So will the world's number two PC manufacturer holding an axe over Sony's neck head tip the scales? Well, here's to hoping.
The Blu-ray consortium agreed to voluntary managed copy (it’s up to the studio) instead of the mandatory managed copy that is mandated in the HD DVD standard. As a result HP laptops were available with only HD DVD drives as an option until very recently.
12-23-2007, 01:42 PM
China Not Big in Japan.
China–weary of paying licensing fees for DVD players to outside companies–planned to develop its own DVD-like format called EVD to allow its manufacturers to serve the country’s huge domestic market with discs and players that didn’t need to pay royalties to the DVD Forum members. That effort failed, but now China is hoping to deliver another local version based on HD-DVD with Toshiba’s support.
The catch is that it won’t be compatible with standard HD-DVD players, so it won’t help Toshiba or Microsoft at all in the US market. Meanwhile, Windows Enthusiasts keep talking about an impending flood of cheap Chinese HD-DVD players that haven’t materialized, hoping to bend reality to support China as the last best hope for Microsoft.
This is wrong on multiple fronts. First of all the Chinese HD DVD (known as CH DVD) players will be very similar to HD DVD players in terms of hardware, which is what matters for manufacturing. The main differences are in the software. China does not want to pay IP royalties for HD and so they want all of the software including the video codec to be Chinese made. Instead of supporting Mepg2, AVC/MPEG-4 and VC1, the CH DVD players will support AVS, a Chinese developed video codec. Chinese hardware manufacturing can absolutely be leveraged to produce HD DVD players.
12-23-2007, 01:43 PM
Apart from the rather desperate Toshiba, other Japanese companies are wary of sharing their technology with the Chinese, worried that those companies would price them out of the market and–purposely or accidently–open up the DRM protections that protect movie duplication on HD discs.
If this is true why is Blu-ray still trying to pursue China?
Blu-ray Still Pursuing China
A news blurb on Warren Communications News website reports that the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) is continuing to court China with regards to adopting the Blu-ray standard. The BDA is proposing to include China in the current Blu-ray spec, rather than develop a new China-only spec as rival HD DVD has.
12-23-2007, 01:46 PM
Microsoft’s Supernova in WMA, WinCE.
While Microsoft has ineffectually worked to push HDi as its last ditch effort to find a niche for its WinCE–and tried valiantly to push Windows Media as an alternative to the industry standard H.264–it looks like neither effort will amount to much in the long run.
In the same ten year period, Apple has contributed toward the open, collaborative development of MPEG-4, and almost singlehandedly pushed the open new MPEG-4 AAC into the mainstream with the iPod and iTunes.
Microsoft is a contributor (licensor) in the MPEG LA patent pool for H.264/Mpeg-4 AVC. Apple’s name does not show up as a contributor or licensee of this technology.
12-23-2007, 01:48 PM
In contrast, Microsoft hoped to use its Windows monopoly to push PC users from MP3 audio to the exclusive use of its proprietary WMA, using cheap Chinese designed “portable Media Players” built around its Windows Media DRM.
Today, WMA players amount to nothing. Microsoft worked with Toshiba to deliver the Zune so it could push an alternative to the DRM-optional iPod, but that effort has made little progress.
Universal, another HD-DVD partner, has also tried to breathe life into Microsoft’s Wal-Mart Windows Media store by offering cheap MP3 downloads, but the move is unlikely to help.
There are many companies that license WMA/DRM for use in their hardware products. Apple does not license or open the technology behind iTunes to other companies. This is really unrelated to HD DVD vs. Blu-ray though.
Again, HD DVD offers multiple hardware options, software and OS options, Video codec and Audio codec options. It is just as open as Blu-ray, but with less optional and mandatory DRM. HD DVD offers AACS as an option. This is the only DRM mechanism in HD DVD. All commercial titles use AACS, but home video makers do not need to include AACS on their discs. Blu-ray requires AACS on all movie discs, home project or not. It also offers the options of BD+, disc watermarking and region coding, which are not included in HD DVD.
By the way, the “Universal” mentioned above is an entirely different company than the one publishing movies in HD DVD. That Universal is a music company and is actually part of the Blu-ray group.
12-23-2007, 01:49 PM
The Video Challenge.
Apple has similarly established support behind the ISO’s MPEG-4 AVC for video, employing H.264 as the common video codec between iTunes’ TV, movies, and free podcasts, as well as the common format among video iPods, iPhones, Apple TV, and in iTunes and QuickTime on the Mac and Windows.
Daniel spends a lot of time praising open standards but in reference to iTunes which requires Apple hardware or software to access.
That effort has left WMV high and dry among personal media players, and promises to further marginalize WinCE just as the Apple’s new mobile is hanging up the phone on Microsoft’s Windows Mobile already. By refusing to license Windows Media codecs and sticking with open standards, Apple is calling Microsoft’s bluff with a stiff raise.
Microsoft licenses WMV/VC-1 and Windows CE/Mobile to many companies. Apple has certainly shown innovation with the iPhone, but it is a closed system. Apple doesn’t license the software technology or allow other companies to play in the iPhone market.
Thanks to reader Urian for contributing to this article.
In conclusion, Daniel seems to view HD DVD vs. Blu-ray as Microsoft vs. Apple. While Microsoft is a strong supporter of HD DVD and the open standards in it, they are not in competition with Apple on this. It’s true that Apple is a member of the BDA, but they are just one of many companies who are members. In reality, Apple has taken no active steps in supporting Blu-ray. In fact Apple supports HD DVD authoring in their Final Cut Studio 2 but does not support Blu-ray authoring.
One of the nice features of the HD DVD format is that you can create your own full fledged HD DVD content, including Advanced Interactivity (aka HDi) features on a regular DVD and play it back on an HD DVD player just like any HD DVD disc. The only difference is you’re limited to the physical capacity of a DVD. Blu-ray does not support the authoring of HD content on DVDs.
12-24-2007, 10:29 PM
It seems a lot of the original article was pushing very hard in attempting to frame the next generation DVD battle into an anti-Microsoft pro-Apple framework.
Was the original author a prominent outspoken Apple supporter in the past, and would that tend to bias him into forcing the HD DVD vs Blu-ray format war into Microsoft versus Apple framework?
I guess you can choose to believe but you want to believe, and the recently reported $500 million Paramount -Microsoft content and Internet licensing deal shows Microsoft has cash to spend, but some of the original authors facts and speculation are clearly in error.
Looks like a pretty complete "Fisking" of the article to me.
12-28-2007, 07:23 PM
Good article analysis. You should post a blog or website with the full analysis of yours.
01-08-2008, 01:06 PM
Some corrections and clarifications. By way of background, I participate at all levels of the BDA and have intimate knowledge of the events discussed here.
HDi is based on open web standards (XML) which makes it very easy for web developers to become familiar with it. This is the reason that there are hundreds of HD DVD discs (nearly every title) with HDi interactivity whereas there are less than 30 Blu-ray discs released that are using BD-J.This is an apples to oranges comparison. HD DVD has two authoring options: legacy DVD or HDi. Anything you want to do more advanced than legacy DVD (i.e. pop-up menus) requires that you use HDi. Blu-ray also has two authoring options: HDMV or BD-J. HDMV is far more powerful than legacy DVD, and supports pop-up menus, animation, picture-in-picture, etc. The initially available authoring tools for Blu-ray only supported HDMV, so that's what most titles used. For the true apples-to-apples comparison you should look at the number of HD DVD discs which use capabilities not present in HDMV, in which case you'll find the numbers are much closer relative to titles authored in BD-J.
The BDA’s own technical working group evaluated HDi and found it superior to BD-J/Java by majority vote (7-5). The technical committee recommended to the board that HDi be selected over BD-J. The BDA board however, overturned that recommendation (10-4 with 2 abstentions).The original technical recommendation was made with input from Microsoft and without input from Sun (who was not a BDA director at the time) and turned out to have missed significant advantages for BD-J. The board vote was taken after a second technology review, this time with Sun's input, and the result was a clearcut preference for BD-J. One of the big factors is that BD-J is based on the same Java platform as are the content platforms which cable and broadcast television has standardized upon (OpenCable Platform or "tru2way" in the US, MHP, ACAP, and GEM worldwide). Since movie content generally migrates to video-on-demand and TV content migrates to optical disc and the same devices often display both it's a huge benefit to have the same content platform in both places.
The standard HD DVD spec that all players (from the 1st gen up) support the same type of features as Blu-ray profile 2.0. Profile 2.0 is considered an optional profile, so these features may always remain a niche in the Blu-ray market as opposed to being a basic standard as they are in all HD DVD players. There is still no release date for any profile 2.0 players. LG has said their LG-BH200 universal player will be upgradeable to profile 2.0, but there is no release date for this profile.The Blu-ray studios are strongly committed to offering networked content; it will not remain a "niche". Since the PS3 will receive an update to support Profile 2.0 (BD-Live), most of the installed player base (as of early 2008) will be able to support networked content, and most new models released from mid-2008 are likely to have full support for Profile 2.0. Players without network support will be available at the very low end and for those who have no interest in network connectivity. Blu-ray content supporting the network has also already been released (War from Lionsgate is the first title). Many more titles have been announced, with content shown which exceeds the level of sophistication of currently available and demonstrated HD DVD titles.
Considering that Sony was subsidizing the PS3 at a greater loss than Toshiba was doing on their 1st generation HD DVD players, this doesn’t prove much other than Toshiba is willing to spend money to preserve their revenue stream, just as Sony would like to capture this revenue stream.This is also an apples-to-oranges comparison. Game consoles are generally sold at a loss (the Xbox 360 has been as well), with the profits coming from highly-profitable game title sales. The same business model doesn't work for movie-only devices, as the per-movie royalties are far smaller than per-game royalties.
Sony essentially forced every PS3 customer to buy a Blu-ray player.While inclusion of a Blu-ray drive clearly drove up the price of a PS3, it also provides the benefit of supporting far higher capacities for use on game titles. A number of PS3 publishers have already stated that they will far exceed the 8.5GB available on Xbox 360 discs.
This also complicates calculating the installed base of Blu-ray movie watchers. It’s hard to definitively say what percentage are using their PS3 to watch movies. We know as stated above, that only 40% of PS3 owners are aware of the capability.The percentage of PS3 owners consuming movies is much less relevant than the overall titles sales numbers, which have been overwhelmingly higher for Blu-ray throughout 2007.
Considering that HD DVD is delivering a more polished and complete solution with the flexibility to easily transition both replication facilities and consumers (with combo discs), what is the value proposition of Blu-ray for the movie industry or the consumer?While HD DVD discs are (currently) less expensive to replicate, that cost savings comes at a cost of flexibility. Blu-ray Discs have much higher capacity, are far more appropriate for burning (even two years after launch HD DVD burners are very difficult to find, generally don't support RW, and are slow), and have a much stronger roadmap for future capacity gains.
The reason why much of the porn industry went with HD DVD is that they had difficulty finding Blu-ray replication facilities that would take their content for replication. Sony itself has been unwilling to directly provide replication services to the porn industry.As I write this most of the major porn publishers who publish in high-def are supporting Blu-ray. Further, Sony's unwillingness to replicate porn is based on contractual requirements from the major studios which prevent any replicator who has studio business from also taking porn business (to prevent the possibility of porn content being mistakenly shipped as studio content, which has happened a number of times). There are now a number of independent replicators who take on porn business.
The Blu-ray consortium agreed to voluntary managed copy (it’s up to the studio) instead of the mandatory managed copy that is mandated in the HD DVD standard.Managed copy is mandatory in both formats. Note that the policies for managed copy have not yet been agreed upon by AACS, so it's not available for either format.
As a result HP laptops were available with only HD DVD drives as an option until very recently.The lack of Blu-ray Disc availability on HP computers was unrelated to managed copy.
Daniel spends a lot of time praising open standards but in reference to iTunes which requires Apple hardware or software to access.Itunes works on Windows as well and does not require an ipod.