January 15, 2007
Two New Products to Help Bridge Blu-Ray, HD-DVD War

One other major technology story coming out of last week is multiple plans for DVD players that help find a truce in those caught in the middle of the high-definition format war. Two companies have designed products that will help viewers find refuge in the middle of this industry technology war by being able to play both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD formats.

Warner Brothers Home Video are releasing a disc called "Total HD," which is actually encoded in both formats, while LG is promoting a dual HDTV player that it unveiled at the CES show last week in Las Vegas. The player, called Super Multi Blue, will retail at $1,199, so it's just as cheap to buy both players separately.

I know I've personally been caught in the recordable DVD war between the minus DVDs and the plus DVDs, recently buying a whole set of + that won't work on my Toshiba DVR. While the industry continues a battle that matters little to the public except when it costs them money and annoyance, it's good to see a couple of products launched that keep that public in mind and the viewer experience, rather than quibbling and posturing within the industry. I know substantial profits are involved for whoever wins this format war, but it only causes a hassle for users and exposes how insensitive to the viewer experience the industry can sometimes seem. However, at the price of the LG player, I don't know how many people are going to be giving it a try.

James Hibberd with TelevisionWeek writes, "The products aim to allay consumer fears about picking a high-def format that might soon be extinct and represent a breakthrough in the industry format gridlock." It may also help ease the fears of potential consumers who have yet to get into the market, for fear of making the wrong choice.

The first round of HD formats came out last year, while Toshiba and Sony continue to battle it out over which format is better as the industry standard. As Hibberd writes, "Consumers, studios and consumer electronics retailers have grown frustrated. Consumers are reluctant to invest in a player that might not "win" the format battle. Studios and retailers are concerned the dispute is causing customers not to purchase DVDs, standard-def or high-def, until a winning format is crowned."

As I wrote back in August, "This (technology debate) isn't new in television, and especially not for technology in general. In television's earliest days, when the drive was to make the picture color instead of black-and-white, companies presented various forms of colorization. The color format that eventually won out was the one that could work with the same technology used for the black-and-white format, with thought of keeping cost minimized for the user most prevalent."

Yet another point of proof that the industry hasn't evolved quite as much as some may think.