DVD Wars Looking For the 20th Century Fox

    July 30, 2005

Blu-Ray launched another offensive in the DVD war in the form of the 20th Century Fox studio. Make no bones about it; it is a war as Sony, Toshiba and all the companies who’ve signed off on the respective high definition formats continue to look for an edge.

Fox’s home entertainment division announced its decision based on recent commitments by the Blu-Ray folks to protect copyrighted material, which is a huge point of contention for most record studios at this time. This stands to reason though since the Blu-Ray developer Sony is also a major movie company.

“We are in creative collaboration with some of the best filmmakers in the business and the most important thing to the studio is that we continue to provide the best possible presentation of our films,” commented Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman, Chairmen, Fox Filmed Entertainment. “Creative advances in movie-making technology have consistently helped raise the bar in films today and with the Blu-ray Disc the bar has now been raised for the home viewing experience. We will take full advantage of all the creative possibilities it offers.”

HD-DVD, the alternative technology developed by Toshiba has developed a following too although seemingly not as large as the Blu-Ray folks. They release a statement shortly after Fox’s announcement.

Today’s announcement by 20th Century Fox regarding its support of the Blu-ray Disc format is surprising and misleading in terms of which format provides for more robust copy protection.

The content protection system of HD DVD provides an equivalent level of security as the system advocated by Fox for Blu-ray. We also believe the Blu-ray disc format and proposed copy protection system may result in playability and reliability issues for the consumer.

HD DVD provides robust, renewable and standardized content protection coupled with proven reliability, cost effectiveness and flexibility, which is why many major film studios have announced support for the HD DVD format.

In Case You Don’t Know

Toshiba and Sony have been in a row over the next generation DVD format for high definition playback. There are some distinct differences between the two technologies and Sony may have the edge.

What many see as the biggest difference is the storage capacity of the two discs. Each disc is made up of layers and those layers each hold a certain amount of material, be it data, mp3 or whatever. HD DVD’s layer holds 15GB and Blu-Ray holds 25GB per layer.

Toshiba’s plan with the HD DVD looks to be releasing a 3-layer disc of 45GB and Sony’s will be two layers at 50GB. TDK, aligned with Sony, plans a 4-layer disc with 100 GB. What does all this mean, you might wonder. Well, size matters in this case. High definition video takes up a lot of space on those discs and more gigs means more content.

The advantage for Toshiba’s HD DVD format will be the price point for companies using their format. Their format is based on the current DVD format and would require very little modification to current production facilities in order to being production and some companies have already announced the release of movies like “Oceans 12” for the HD DVD format.

The other factor in this is computer and games console applications, which means games mostly. With the new larger capacities, games will get extraordinarily good, loaded with incredibly high definition graphics and longer games too. Sony, who plans on releasing the PS3 sometimes next spring, plans on putting the Blu-Ray into their console. Microsoft currently has a pretty significant alliance with Toshiba and plans on putting the HD DVD into their Xbox360 console, due out during the holidays, at some point.

Also, major players in the computer industry have come out on side or the other, both in terms of hardware and software have chosen sides. Apple, HP and Dell have both sided with Sony, who makes their own computers well (what doesn’t Sony make?). These companies have all said they will plug Blu-Ray products in their computers Companies like EA, who make games for both computers and consoles sided with Blu-Ray as well but Microsoft, the software king, has said they will keep their options open but they signed a technology sharing agreement with Toshiba and not with Sony.

What All This Means

Sony went through a similar battle with Panasonic a couple of decades ago over videotape formats in the VHS vs. Beta wars. Beta was actually a superior product in many ways but Panasonic handled the battle a bit better and won. Toshiba’s not out for the count but a lot of companies have aligned with Sony, which is going to make life difficult for Toshiba in this battle for disc supremacy.

As this war goes on, what this means is the consumer loses. The HD DVD format will be out first, sometime this year. SOME movies will show up in the new format and other will wait as they’ve aligned with Sony. Your favorite video rental places will have to carry two formats to cover the movies and so will all the retailers. At this point though, you’ll have Spiderman and the X-Men on Blu-Ray and you’ll have Batman and the Lord of the Rings on HD-DVD. And for good measure, keep in mind the VHS will be gone when the new DVDs come out. So, what’re you going to choose?

John Stith is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.