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.
"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.