HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray

And the winner is… Blu-Ray!!!

It was just another battle between formats, remember the BetaMax vs VHS war.

Since Toshiba, the main driving force behind HD DVD, recently announced it would no longer develop, manufacture and market HD DVD players, we’re settled for Blu-Ray. OK! But is it really the end? Is Blu-Ray really the winner? And for how long?

This war, maintaining confusion in the customers’ mind and thus delaying possible mass adoption, has helped a third party actor, online video, to move-up. While online video is still not a strong actor, it will probably challenge DVD and Blu-Ray pretty earlier than planned.

Let’s have a look at what happened and happens on the music market and let’s try to learn from it.

The story is quite different but the outcome may be the same. While the audio industry was happy with the Audio CD, new formats have been introduced to fight against piracy. SACD on one hand, DVD-A on the other but no one really cared about what the consumer wanted, access to a lot of music at a reasonable price. Downloadable music answered the need, legally or not. We now have a situation where “hardware” music sales drop down every year. And the only lacking step for downloadable music to win the battle is the definition of a true standard for each change of player.

While music can be listened to several times, this is less true for movies. Therefore, downloadable video or online VOD will probably win the battle even faster, probably as soon as the proper broadband Internet access bandwidth allowing it will be widely available. An EC report forecasts that, by 2010, almost 90 percent of Europe’s home Internet users will use broadband, among which 33 percent will be connected using fibre optic networks. With download bandwiths up to 100 Mbits/s allowing for HD TV to be streamed in realtime, no doubt the fibre optic network customers will switch to downloadable or online video rapidly.

So I’m afraid the golden days of Blu-Ray won’t last long. Once again, everything is in the hands of the content providers. Will they try to protect their old fashioned business model as music majors did? Or will they manage to take customers’ expectations into account and come out with updated business models? It caused severe damages to the music industry not being able to do the right choice in the right time…

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