Why Microsoft and Intel? Why?!

Microsoft and Intel have decided to officially support the idiotic HD-DVD format over the far superior Blu-ray. Why? Microsoft I can somewhat understand. Their software is used in the front end, while their codec is supported by both, beyond the fact that Blu-ray is a Sony product which makes the Playstation 3 (which uses Blu-ray), which is a competitor for their XBox 360.
A little background may be called for here. HD-DVD and Blu-ray are two competing formats for the next generation of High Definition DVD. They both use a blue laser so they can store more information on the disk then current DVDs, allowing them to store a HD movie. There the similarities end.
HD-DVD as I see it is little more then an interim step. If it wins the format war, we’ll be forced to upgrade to a new standard again years from now. Blu-ray, has far greater storage, 25GB to a layer compared to HD-DVDs 15GB, with up to 4 layers demonstrated on Blu-ray… Layer changes are bad, ever notice the way some DVDs will pause for half a second? That is the layer change. The less layer changes we need the better. To get what Blu-ray can do in 2 layers, you need 3 layers of HD-DVD, and still fall 4GB short. The HD-DVD camp points out their cost is lower. However, the cost to the end consumer isn’t that much lower, a couple bucks at best, and that is only at the start. The long term costs of Blu-ray are cheaper for the end consumer, even if HD-DVD wasn’t an interim step.
The movie studios are evenly split on the issue. As a matter of fact, the studios that were supporting HD-DVD have backed off a bit, at least for the initial planned launch window. Most of the computer companies, such as Apple, HP and Dell support Blu-ray. As I already noted, Sony’s PS3 will support Blu-ray, which means millions of game machines will be able to play Blu-ray movies, while Microsoft’s next generation XBox 360 currently will only support regular DVDs, they may upgrade it in the future to support one of the formats, which now looks to be HD-DVD without question.
Both formats can lock the DVD player up and stop it from showing movies in HDTV if somebody somewhere cracks the player and gets it to show stuff region-free, or some other hack. If a movie is pirated, both formats can lock down that movie on all players to regular DVD quality. Both formats, if they employ either of the those two tactics would force you to buy a new player that hasn’t been hacked yet, how the new player will handle the locked movie isn’t clear to me yet… I really wonder what this means for the PS3? If somebody hacks the PS3s Blu-ray movie playing aspect, does this mean the PS3 becomes useless as a Blu-ray movie player or will they offer an upgrade at some high cost?
Neither format works with lots of the older HDTV sets out there… well they are compatible, but won’t show the signal in HDTV which is the whole point of the formats, they will degrade the signal to the same as a regular DVD.
Of course this doesn’t change things too much. Any Blu-ray DVD player for the computer would come with the stuff to make Windows work with it, even if it isn’t in Windows by default, so I guess it isn’t that big a deal… Intel’s support of such a weaker format is confusing, but moot. The only thing Intel could add is on-chip support for HD-DVD to their video chips, which are only used in really low end systems. The video card makers are already committed to supporting the codecs of both, which is basically the same, so it won’t matter there.
Still, it is upsetting to see HD-DVD have a victory after their recent setbacks. Another opportunity for them to talk to consumers how cheaper they are, despite the fact it is cheaper only for the replicator company, not for the consumer. I am going to go and try to relax knowing I shouldn’t be upset over such silly things.

4 thoughts on “Why Microsoft and Intel? Why?!”

  1. A very recent article on Ars Technica outlines the manufacturing costs and concerns of Blue Ray. If these figures are correct I’d be selling Sony stock and buying MS. Frankly, I don’t want to buy yet another set of Star Wars (original, of course) — I know I will, eventually, but I was hoping it wouldn’t be for another few years.


  2. there are still very few blu-ray movie titles on our local video rental**;

    1. Things may get even tougher with Netflix and Redbox about the only two choices for more and more people. Netflix people probably have it okay, though the Netflix really needs to kill the Blu-Ray fee. Redbox only puts Blu-Ray in select locations as of now, and none of my local boxes have them yet.
      Of course I still have an old 26″ tube TV that is getting fuzzy and the colors are no longer proper, and it is getting dark to boot… so while I have a Blu-ray player in my PS3, I have yet to be able to take advantage of it… let alone actually own/rent a Blu-ray movie.
      I am glad Blu-Ray won the format war. I still think it was the best choice for the consumer in the long run. I don’t think digital downloads will ever take off as more and more ISPs start putting caps on their bandwidth.

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