High Def DVD Technology Faces External Threats

By: Emily Sanderson

A lot of attention is paid to the fevered competition between Sony's Blu-ray and Toshiba's HD-DVD High Definition DVD formats, but many analysts and the general public ignore the threats that high def DVD technology in general face from other technologies. Unlike the original DVD format that was introduced almost a decade ago and the video cassette technology that came before it, high def DVD's in general face competition from a number of other technologies that are threatening to make them obsolete before they even get a foothold in the market.

The most obvious source of competition comes in the form of all of the services that are offering movies in HDTV format for download over the Internet. For example, Sony's Bravia HDTV sets can display a variety of HDTV videos that can be downloaded from the Internet. While this service has the disadvantage of only working with Bravia HDTV sets, an increasing amount of HDTV content is expected to be made available and it certainly provides a glimpse of how we can expect to get our HDTV content in the future.

Another service that provides HDTV programming is Vudu. Vudu is basically a set top box that can be used to download movies from the Internet and display them in high definition on an HDTV set. The only catch with Vudu is that the device downloads the movies in standard definition format and then upconverts them to HDTV format before displaying them on the screen. This system has the advantage of conserving bandwidth for easier and faster downloads, but doesn't provide the same level of picture quality as a true HDTV download would. Still, the concept of upconverting standard def video to HDTV is sound and may be able to produce better results with the technological advances of the future.

The Sony Play Station 3 is not only a Blu-ray disc player, but is also expected to be capable of downloading high def movies from the Internet in the near future, making another alternative to High Def DVD's. The Xbox 360 from Microsoft is already capable of downloading HDTV movies from the Internet, but the device is plagued by depressingly long download times- sometimes on the order of eight hours for a standard length movie! Still, these two devices make it obvious that both Sony and Microsoft (which is a backer of HD-DVD) are hedging their bets by embracing the same technology that could make their investments in High Def DVD technology a loss.

One interesting option that has been proposed for getting HDTV content in the future is providing it for consumers on compact, portable hard drives. These hard drives would be enormous in capacity and contain entire archives of movies. Instead of paying for all of these movies all at once, consumers would be able to see what's available to watch on the hard drive and then pay to have the movie that they want to watch unlocked. That way having instant access to a huge number of HDTV titles could be extremely cost effective. Of course, the disadvantage of this is that it would be difficult to add new titles to the hard drive, but maybe that's where Internet downloads could come in- to supplement a larger personal archive, rather than to provide the viewer with everything that she or he may want to watch.

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