Archive for Sunday, December 10, 2006

Toplikar: Blue battle - Blu-ray, HD DVD fight for video supremacy

December 10, 2006


I was reading up on the difference between the next generation of DVD formats when Katy brought in her tiny new dog.

"This is Kinsey," my oldest daughter told me, cradling it in her arms.

It sure was small.

"Is it a puppy?" I asked.

"No, she's 7 months old," Katy said, explaining she had been looking at Bichon Frise/poodles for a while.

Just then, our older dog, Bailey, lumbered in.

Kinsey barked in surprise at the bigger dog, a 54-pound barrel of fur.

Bailey eyed the 15-pound ball of fluff in Katy's arms and growled. I didn't like that look - I'd seen what had happened to any squirrel Bailey caught in our back yard.

Worried, Katy decided to take Kinsey upstairs, leaving me once again to ponder the implications of another looming dogfight.

Canis canem edit

I went back to checking out the new high-definition video disc formats, which are in the middle of a dog-eat-dog marketing battle.

Both formats use a blue laser to read the new high-definition discs, which are best viewed on big-screen HDTVs.

Two incompatible technologies are seeking the top dog spot in the new DVD standard - Blu-ray and HD DVDs. And that means consumers with high-definition TVs will need to figure out which format of player to buy.

Blu-ray is made by Sony and is backed by several movie studios along with Panasonic, Samsung, LG Electronics, Apple and Dell.

HD DVDs are backed by Microsoft, Intel, Toshiba and Universal Pictures.

"This is a battle for a standard," said Kissan Joseph, an associate professor in Kansas University's School of Business.

Joseph, who researches marketing, said the battle is shaping up to be an example of "network externalities," a phenomenon where people like to buy the standard that turns out to be the most popular.

Audio Clips
Blue battle

"These kinds of markets are tippy, or winner takes all," he said. Usually, one product takes over most of the market, such as the way Windows dominates Apple in computers.

It's also very similar to the VHS and Betamax battles of the late 1970s and into the 1980s, when Sony's Betamax finally became extinct because so many more movies were coming out on the VHS standard.

"The real name of the game in a market like this is to get critical mass," Joseph said.

Which format should consumers buy?

"I would personally wait to see how this shakes out," he said. "There's a little bit of risk if you buy the wrong standard and that standard doesn't become popular - you're stuck with a player that cost you $1,000 and two years down the road, there aren't enough titles."

Blu-ray more expensive

At Kief's Audio Video in Lawrence, the first Sony Blu-ray players arrived Wednesday.

Keith Richards, who handles custom sales in audio video, admits it's confusing for consumers to figure out which standard to buy.

"It's kind of a mess right now, to tell you the truth," he said.

Blu-ray might have the upper hand now because it has more movie studios behind it, Richards said, but HD DVD players have had a lot of good feedback from reviewers in major video magazines.

Because picture and sound quality are about the same for both standards, he said, price could be a selling point for many people, Richards said. Blu-ray players cost about $1,000, but the average HD DVD players will cost about $500 or less.

"Quality is going to be about equal," he said.

But features also may offer some differentiation.

"Blu-ray kind of touts a little bit better user interaction," he said. "Those players can actually be hooked up to the Internet and download movie content from the movie studio Web sites."

At this point, the warring companies haven't licensed electronics companies to make players that would play both formats.

"Each camp wants to put the other one out of the business, essentially," Richards said. "They're doing everything they can not to make it convenient for the customer."

And that makes consumers cautious.

"They don't want to invest a pretty good chunk of change on something that might be obsolete in a year or two," he said.

Dogs of war

As I read up on the Blu-ray vs. HD DVD battle, Katy brought Kinsey back downstairs.

She had another argument for the small-dog format: Kinsey was more suited to be an indoor pet - poodles are less likely to shed, so they're more hypo-allergenic.

"Mmm. More technologically advanced?" I asked, looking over at Bailey's long fur.

I guess I shouldn't growl too much about the small-dog format. At least she didn't get a cat.


Brandon Perkins 11 years, 6 months ago

Kief's JUST got their first Blue Ray players on Wednesday?!?!?!? We have had them at Best Buy for 6 months.....

And the HD-DVD players are getting good reviews? I would like to see one "good" review about the Toshiba HD-A1 player.....

thubbard76 11 years, 6 months ago

Oh yeah...

Betamax vs VHS MiniDisc vs Any Other Recordable Music Format Ever SACD vs DVD Audio ATRAC vs Mp3 vs AAC (Apple) PSP vs any Nintendo product

Sony's track record of winning "format wars" is impeccable, eh?

Sony: "Hey guys. Here's a great new technology!" Everybody Else: "Cool! Here's how to make it work!"

compmd 11 years, 6 months ago

people, stop giving sony your money. if you insist on buying and hdtv and bluray player now, I have a couple of laptop batteries to give you. wait for the fcc digital mandates to go through, prices will drop, technology will standardze.

SpeedRacer 11 years, 6 months ago

I learned my lesson from Beta. I'll wait for the winner, then pay a much lower price. Besides, I am not ready to start replacing my large DVD collection.

doc1 11 years, 6 months ago

Blue Ray will win out. Not only can in hold over twice the amount of information on one disc it already has more support. Oh yeah, not to mention by the end of 2007 almost 1/4 of the U.S. households will have a Playstation 3 in their home with a built in Blue Ray player.

compmd 11 years, 6 months ago

"Hi, we're Sony. Enjoy super new BluRay technology! Now bend over and grab your ankles like a good consumer, because here comes the DRM!"

Purchasing BluRay gear is implicitly telling Sony that you think its okay that THEY tell you what you can and can't do WITH THE HARDWARE AND DISCS THAT YOU BUY.

Depending on your video output device, the player can limit the output size/resolution. If you try to output to a device that your player doesn't like, it can REDUCE the output quality. Isn't that nice of the media companies?

The Advanced Access Content System can actually PERMANENTLY DISABLE your player (component or computer drive) if it thinks you're trying to copy a disc. This is adding fuel to the fire in the conflict of fair use under copyright law and the DMCA. To avoid looking biased, HD-DVD is using this encryption method as well. The IEEE, the professional organization for electrical and electronics engineers, calls AACS a technology most likely to fail.

So why are consumers accepting this crap? Why are we paying companies like Sony millions upon millions of dollars to shove bad technology down our throats?

thubbard76 11 years, 6 months ago

Hey Brando,

Apparantly Kiefs doesn't know about the Panasonic combo that's set to release stateside spring 07. Granted, you're looking at a $1200 price point, but a dual-format player is technically on the way. And yes, we've had the Sony Blu-Ray at Best Buy for nearly a month now. Get back in bed with the local guys, LJWorld. Looks like you're getting all the info you need (snicker).

p.s. I heard Weavers just got their first shipment of "women's breeches". Must be some new fangled ladypants or somethin'.

doc1 11 years, 6 months ago

Thubbard, I just had to laugh with you.

kef104 11 years, 6 months ago

Ok, so Best Buy is proud of the fact that have had Blu-Ray in stock longer than Kief's. Great. When are you going to start bragging about stocking quality, as in audiophile level, equipment? The best equipment Best Buy stocks will does not approach entry level equipment at Kief's. For example, Best Buy sells Pioneer, Kief's sells Pioneer Elite. The quality difference it astounding. Do not get me wrong, Best Buy has its place in the market, but to have their employees try to make Kief's look bad is somewhat of a joke. We will not even begin to address employee product knowledge. Ed, who has been there for decades is great and Gayle, the man who created Martin Logan speakers started them while working for Kief's.

thubbard76 11 years, 6 months ago

The issue is not trying to make Kiefs employees look bad. I work for Best Buy and still shop at Kiefs, yes due to their selection. If you checkout Best Buy's Magnolia stores in the KC area you will find Pioneer Elite, as well as Denon, KEF, and several other high end manufacturers. I would suggest NOT bringing up product knowledge as well, considering that I will put myself against any of their staff in terms of knowledge or customer service. There is nothing wrong with Kiefs whatsoever, and no one at Best Buy considers them to be truly competition. We sell different lines of products to different types of customers. I'm not afraid to send a customer to Kiefs if I can't offer what they need. In reality, we generally co-exist and benefit each other by bringing the knowledge of the local consumer up across the board. But to say that a product is not available to the consumer indicates the fact that current product knowledge is very difficult to keep up with, and in this instance Kiefs was obviously not the most informed group to speak with. There are certainly advantages to both of our companies, but because I work for the "Big Box" I am supposed to be poorly trained on how to serve customers and sell shoddy merchandise? Please. By that logic, the good people at Hy-Vee can't possibly meet my grocery needs and I should just do all my shopping at the Merc, since they are local and much smaller. There are no employees at Best Buy that commute from LA, NYC, Chicago, or anywhere but the local Lawrence area. We all live here, shop here, and pay taxes here just like everyone else. Don't just drink the Kool-Aid on the Big Box argument. You'll seriously sell yourself short. Or I suppose if you're a loyal Kiefs shopper, don't just drink the Cristal.

Strummer 11 years, 6 months ago

The guys at Kief's are great! Best Buy having blue ray first doesn't impress me. I'd rather talk to Ed at Kief's who has a sincere interest in my questions/needs.

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