HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray: The Great Optical Disc Battle

By: Phillip Kimpo Jr.

Long gone are the times when all we had were compact discs, first for music, then for data storage and movies. The DVDs came next, boasting of what seemed then as tons of data storage.

But as they say, times quickly change, and so does the technology. Personal and commercial demands for data storage -- be they for music, movies, games, or software -- are outstripping the present capacities of optical discs.

Fortunately, two new players in the optical storage scene have arrived -- HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. Both share similarities, and at the same time compete against each other to become the new standard technology for the future. This match-up will eventually determine the successor to the DVD. While it might seem a boon to consumers to have two disc types to choose from, the battle between the two discs might be disastrous to the industry.

HD-DVD

HD-DVD stands for either High Density Digital Versatile Disc or High Definition Digital Video Disc. The HD-DVD's look is a familiar one -- it is 120 mm in diameter, the same size as a CD and DVD. A single-sided HD-DVD can hold 15 GB of storage, while a dual-sided one can store 30 GB. A triple-sided HD-DVD, a huge possibility courtesy of Toshiba, can hold 45 GB.

HD-DVDs use the iHD Interactive Format, which will allow interactive content to be written for the discs.

Blu-Ray

Blu-Ray takes its name from the laser that it uses -- a 405 nm wavelength blue laser, which is also employed by the HD-DVD. A single-sided Blu-ray disc, which shares the same diameter with the HD-DVD, CD, and DVD, can hold 25 GB of storage, while a dual-sided one can store 50 GB.

As a counterpart of the HD-DVD's iHD Interactive Format, Blu-ray will use the HDMV, as well as Java software support to implement interactive menus.

A Comparison

Factors going for the HD-DVD:

    The DVD Forum is its big daddy.
    The movie industry, which counts among its ranks Universal Studios, Warner Brothers, New Line Cinema, and Paramount Pictures, supports the format.
    The giants of the IT industry -- Toshiba, NEC, Sanyo, the DVD Forum, Microsoft, and Intel -- also support the format.
    All HD-DVDs and HD-DVD players are backward compatible, meaning they will still support old DVDs.
    It is cheaper and faster to manufacture than Blu-Ray discs.

Factors going for Blu-Ray:

    Blu-Ray has the support of the world's largest electronic companies -- Sony, HP, Dell, Pioneer, Philips, Panasonic, Samsung, Apple, LG-Electronics, and Mitsubishi Electric.
    There are also companies from the entertainment industry that support the format -- Electronic Arts, MGM, Walt Disney, and 20th Century Fox.
    The PlayStation 3 will be supporting Blu-Ray discs.
    Blu-Ray discs have faster data transfer rates than their counterparts.
    Blu-Ray discs have larger storage capacities than their counterparts.

As you can see, each side has its advantages and disadvantages. It's really too tough to call at this point as to who will emerge the winner. But one thing is certain -- the commercial industry disdains this battle of attrition, as any format war has the potential to split the market into two incompatible sub-markets; these smaller markets means that the format war kills off revenues.

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