If you're a fan of bitter and protracted format wars between enormous consumer electronics conglomerates, you're in for a treat this summer. The next generation of DVD players have arrived and are now battling it out for your dollars, your living room, and yes, your love.
These spanking brand new DVD players are capable of containing significantly more information than a regular DVD Ã¢â‚¬" enough information to store high definition pictures for today' modern televisions. Or, alternately, six times the amount of low definition pictures, for those consumers that need to store 52 hours of grainy pornography. Which, it turns out, is a surprisingly powerful demographic.
There' only one catch. There are two different versions of this marvelous new technology. They're called HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. And yes, you guessed it: they're incompatible.
If all of this sounds familiar, it should. The same thing happened in the 1980' when the VHS format (backed by JVC, the Catholic Church and Paul McCartney) duked it out with the Beta format (backed by Sony, the Soviet Union, and John Lennon) for supremacy in the home video market. As we all know, it was the VHS format that would emerge victorious, and gain dominance in our living rooms. Sony was forced to start making VHS machines, and a distraught John Lennon, bedridden since the loss, passed away soon after.
Toshiba's HD-DVD vs. Sony's Blu-Ray
This time around we have Toshiba, who back the HD-DVD format, and Sony (Lifetime Format War record: 0-1
) back again, this time with Blu-Ray. Both claim to have the superior product, and haven't been willing to compromise on a middle ground. So, like two fat children on a teeter-totter, both sides are gambling that their collected market weight will loft their opponent perilously in the air. And inevitably, like two fat children on a teeter-totter, there' only one possible outcome: big, fat, wet tears.
Whatever the outcome for the companies involved, for the consumers a format war is almost certainly bad news. It' practically guaranteed that one of the formats will die off completely, leaving anyone who supported the losing format with a $1000 turd sitting in their living room. And unless you're a connoisseur of post-modern shock art, or have very specific sexual preferences, a turd has no business in your living room.
The sudden appearance of living room turds — the metaphorical ones - is exactly what happened in the Beta vs VHS wars. After the VHS gained dominance, owning a Beta machine, aside from being completely useless, was a sign of technological backwardness and a source of great embarrassment. It would remain that way until the turn of the century, when the emergence of hipsters gave Beta a new lease on cool.
Which brings us to the present day. Consumers who have purchased a fancy new high definition television will want to make the most of it. High Definition cable and satellite sources are now available, but it turns out that watching
Deal or No Deal
in high definition feels somewhat lacking, oddly. What we need are high definition movies. This is where HD-DVD and Blu-Ray come in.
How They Work
So how do these new formats work? In basic concept, they're both quite similar. Both formats use blue lasers, instead of the red laser used in a regular DVD player. DID YOU KNOW?
It' this blue laser where the Blu-Ray gets its name, and also, interestingly, where the HD-DVD does not get its name.