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Bill Hunt from The Bits says Buy Blu, stay away from HD DVD

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Old 02-15-2007, 08:51 AM   #1  
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Default Bill Hunt from The Bits says Buy Blu, stay away from HD DVD

From My Blu Cents.
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Finally today, I'm tickled to learn that I'm not the only media analyst that's earned the ire of a select group of... shall we say, passionate?... early adopters on the Net. CNet executive editor David Carnoy has apparently been flamed too by HD-DVD enthusiasts online for daring to suggest that HD-DVD may not have a rosy future. You can read his amusing editorial reaction here.

You know, the funny thing about all this is that I really like both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc just as video formats. They both deliver fantastic quality and features. But technically and quality-wise, this format war is basically a wash. Therefore, it's reasonable to assume that if this battle is going to be decided by anything, it will be other factors. Like which studios support each format, which manufacturers support each format, what the software and hardware sales trends are, etc. And in each of those areas, Blu-ray has developed a clear edge.

Let's look at these simple facts: Of the 12 major and mini-major Hollywood studios (Fox, Disney, MGM, Sony, Lionsgate, Paramount, New Line, HBO, Warner Bros, Universal, DreamWorks and The Weinstein Company) 9 support Blu-ray, 5 of them exclusively. Only 6 support HD-DVD, just 2 of them exclusively (one studio, DreamWorks, remains uncommitted). Not counting computer hardware or budget brands, Blu-ray Disc has 9 major set-top hardware manufacturers behind it (Sony, Pioneer, Samsung, Philips, Panasonic, LG, Mitsubishi, Thomson, Sharp), while HD-DVD boasts just two (Toshiba and now LG). HD-DVD is an add-on to Microsoft's Xbox 360, while Blu-ray is built into EVERY Sony PlayStation 3. Nielsen VideoScan is reporting that in software sales, Blu-ray has virtually erased the sales lead enjoyed by HD-DVD since the formats were launched, and is now outselling HD-DVD by a 2 to 1 (and growing) margin.

I can understand that some people just love HD-DVD and have had great experiences with it. We have too. I understand that some people hate Sony for perceived corporate arrogance. I'm not a big fan of their tactics either, particularly how they went around the DVD Forum to develop their format. But let's face it - the biggest corporate cheerleader for HD-DVD seems to be Microsoft, which isn't exactly comforting either. All of those issues aside, however, how do you argue with the facts that are clearly becoming obvious - namely, ALL those things I just mentioned above? Frankly, the best sales pitch the HD-DVD camp seems to be able to make right now is: "Hey, we've got DVD right in the name! Plus cheap off-brand players are on the way! And porn!" I guess I have to be the guy who states the obvious, but doesn't that seem a little odd to anyone?

The cheap players thing is worth addressing here. The reality is, price sensitivity isn't an issue in the first year or so of any new format. It's mostly just the early adopters who are interested at that point anyway. By the time a wider consumer base is starting to get interested, 2nd and 3rd generation players have entered the market and they're inevitably cheaper. What surprised me most at CES is just how aggressively the HD-DVD camp seems to be trying to drive their format's hardware prices as low as possible by bringing off-brand Asian manufactures into their fold. The arrival of ultra-cheap $100 and $50 players in the DVD industry is what spelled the end of DVD hardware profitability for the major CE manufacturers. So why INVITE this situation before your format is even a year old? It makes no business sense that I can see, unless it's a desperation play - a last ditch effort not to lose.

I've also heard people cite universal players as the answer to having two formats. But the problem with universal players is that while they make life easier for early adopters, they do nothing to clear up the mass consumer (or mainstream media) perception of a format war, so those folks still remain on the sidelines. In addition to that, universal players tend to cost more, which again doesn't affect early adopters that much but is one more strike against adoption by consumers at large, who are price sensitive.

As for porn... I've addressed that issue in the past, and you saw the Newsweek story posted above. Unlike the situation back in the days of VHS versus Betamax, cheap porn is already available everywhere on DVD and online. Porn is not going to decide this format war.

As I've said before, I like both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc. They're both great - they both deliver the goods. But there just isn't room for TWO great formats. And at this point, I just don't see any likely circumstance in which HD-DVD can evolve into a viable mass market consumer video format. I certainly can't recommend in good conscience that Bits readers commit to HD-DVD right now. I tell most readers who ask me about the format war to just stick with DVD, and wait until it's all over. But if they're prepared to risk their money now, and are eager to do so, I have to tell them that Blu-ray is the better bet.
Frankly, I wish this format war had never happened. I am SO sick and tired of endlessly debating the merits of one of these formats versus the other. I'm tired of talking to reps for studios that are sitting on the fence or straddling both formats, who gamely spout the diplomatic company line about how great both formats are on the record, but off the record tell you how sick they all are of the situation and how much more hassle and headache it's caused them having to support THREE formats (including standard DVD). And I'm tired of watching early adopters backbiting each other at every turn. I'd rather just be talking about all the great films being released on disc in high-definition. I truly don't care which format wins, as long as one wins. But as long as there are two competing formats, we ALL lose. Period. The home video industry is not like videogaming. People do not have the patience for two or even three separate formats. They want to go to the store, buy a disc and know that it's going to work when they get home. It's that simple. They don't want to have to worry about having to buy the red box, or the blue box... or even the red AND blue box.

I'd hate for the high-definition video format war to have the same outcome as the high-resolution audio format war did. DVD-Audio versus SACD ended in a stalemate, and most people just stuck with CDs or moved to MP3 downloads. But mark my words, if the HD-DVD/Blu-ray war lingers on, that's exactly where we're headed. All you enthusiasts that have trenched in to support your particular format of choice come hell or high water had better enjoy the movies you're getting now, because if both formats fizzle out, forget about ever getting deep catalog, or older classics that cost money to restore for HD - money that would have come from software sales that aren't happening because too many people stubbornly stuck to their guns and the format war dragged out until nobody cared anymore. I think Stephen Colbert said it best when predicting the future of the HD format war: "The winner will be the one you DON'T buy." There could be a lot more "truthiness" in that statement than some want to believe.

For the good of the video industry as a whole, and for the benefit of film fans everywhere, this format war needs to end and SOON. So how long do we all have to wait before we start acknowledging the elephant in the room: One of these formats is already winning... and, for better or worse, it isn't HD-DVD.

Stay tuned...

Bill Hunt, Editor
The Digital Bits
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Old 02-15-2007, 09:13 AM   #2  
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I agree with everything Bill Hunt said. I never understood why people would go with a technically inferior format just because they think Sony is arrogant.
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Old 02-15-2007, 09:21 AM   #3  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimmy Smith
I agree with everything Bill Hunt said.
Now there's a surprise.
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Old 02-15-2007, 09:25 AM   #4  
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I also agree with most of what he says, HD-DVD will be quick to call bias on this, like every Pro-BD article.
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Old 02-15-2007, 09:40 AM   #5  
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BD is the "better" bet. It has more studio and Mfg. support. It may have a slight edge in AQ. But yet HD DVD is still strong. It's like the big bad diesel engine(BD) makes it to the top of the big hill to enjoy the great view, looks sideways and sees the little coal fired engine(HD DVD) already there Much to Sony's chagrin they just won't go away.
Now imagine if the studio/mfg. support was split down the middle
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Old 02-15-2007, 09:54 AM   #6  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HTdude
BD is the "better" bet. It has more studio and Mfg. support. It may have a slight edge in AQ. But yet HD DVD is still strong. It's like the big bad diesel engine(BD) makes it to the top of the big hill to enjoy the great view, looks sideways and sees the little coal fired engine(HD DVD) already there Much to Sony's chagrin they just won't go away.
Now imagine if the studio/mfg. support was split down the middle
Alot of the studio support came to be because of Sony's pushing of Blu-Ray's vaunted copy protection.

We all now know that hackers have already easily defeated that software code so, now... why would those studios stay committed to Blu-Ray only when the format is more expensive to produce and no longer has the protection they were willing to pay for with the increased cost.

Will that not cause the studios to re-think their support of just one format and instead revert to the bottom line inorder to maximise Their profit margin?
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Old 02-15-2007, 10:07 AM   #7  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BiggNewt
I also agree with most of what he says, HD-DVD will be quick to call bias on this, like every Pro-BD article.
This comes from a person who consistently posts only pro-BD or anti-HD DVD articles.
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Old 02-15-2007, 10:08 AM   #8  
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Where is your huge list of Pro-BD articles? Or should I say single thread?
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Old 02-15-2007, 10:11 AM   #9  
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Will that not cause the studios to re-think their support of just one format and instead revert to the bottom line inorder to maximise Their profit margin?
One can only hope.
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Old 02-15-2007, 10:12 AM   #10  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BiggNewt
Where is your huge list of Pro-BD articles? Or should I say single thread?
If you were posting articles, at least you'd be contributing. No, what you do is more like cheerleading. You wait for someone else to post something, then you jump in with an "I agree" or "I disagree" depending on the OP's stance on HD DVD vs BD. You really add nothing to the conversations, other than a dissenting opinion here or there.

Since you asked for a "single thread" where you posted a pro-BD article, I did find this one...

We get it. You like BD.

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Old 02-15-2007, 11:18 AM   #11  
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Originally Posted by Jimmy Smith
I agree with everything Bill Hunt said. I never understood why people would go with a technically inferior format just because they think Sony is arrogant.
As much as people like to say that, I think its more than just how they feel about Sony.

HD-DVD has been cheaper. Especially for those of us with 360's - Just $200 to get it. My wife didn't give me any grief over that, yet if I had brought home a stand alone player, I would have gotten an earful.

And based on its intended use and capabilities, I think calling it Technically inferior is like saying a Porsche is inferior to a Ferrari.
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Old 02-15-2007, 11:25 AM   #12  
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I love this article. I also could really care less at this point since I do not own either format yet. But I think he forgot one important point. The early adopters all bought HD-DVD (expecially in this forum) so they are extremely biased towards want the format to win so they did not waste their money. I can understand that as I would feel the same way. If HD-dvd fails then at least it was cheaper that BD and you still have a great upconverter and some good movies.

Even before the either format hit the store shelf it was obivous to me that BD had the advantage due to the potential of more storage space and more studio support. I find it hard to believe that a true techy would not see this as a benefit. It seems like most people don't like sony and thats why they want it to fail.

Again I have nothing to benefit from either side winning since I do not own either format. I plan on holding out for another 6-12 months to let some dust settle.
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Old 02-15-2007, 11:38 AM   #13  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimmy Smith
I agree with everything Bill Hunt said. I never understood why people would go with a technically inferior format just because they think Sony is arrogant.
That's a load of a statement there my friend. Sometimes the technically superior format might be technically superior, but it's not the right format for consumers in general. If BD has such an advantage, they should have won the format war by know if it wasn't for people who were so passionate about HD-DVD. There are some people who choose to go with HD-DVD because they hate Sony, but there are many times more who chose HD-DVD because they believe that the format is the best format for them. The next HD movie format isn't just about disc capacity. That's the only advantage the BD crowd has ever enjoyed from a technical standpoint. That is a moot point when you consider that HD-DVD's fit 3+ hour movies like King Kong and Spartacus just fine(a 3.5 hour movie). However, this is where I believe the differences lie and why I support the format I choose.

1. Price. Simply put, where else can you get such a loaded player with such high end equipment for only $500?

2. Lower Development costs. This is the reason why the longer HD-DVD continues to compete in this market, why I believe that they have a better chance as more and more studios will want to offer their movies on a format that costs roughly half of what BD development costs(from the latest articles we have seen posted on this forum lately).

3. A set of standard specs, which includes some mandates that not only increase value, but increases my enjoyment as it means that every HD-DVD movie is garenteed to meet a certain level of visual and audio quality at minimum. Just name me another stand alone player out there that sells for $500, and still comes with a programmable SHARC DSP's, built in DD+ and DtHD decoders, and also functions as one HELLUVA upconverting player along with one heck of a CD player?

4. I believe the world would be much worse off if a company like Sony was able to control both the hardware and software side of things of a format. This would in essence give them a total monopoly on this industry and would not only slow down innovation, but decrease the quality of our HD products as BD does not have as a strigent level of specs that are required at minimum, especially with regards to audio. Who cares about PCM tracks on some movies when it will default to just stereo when you connect using an SPDIF cable like a lot of people do? At least the Toshiba players pass information along in DTS at 1.5mbps which still optimizes audio quality for those people mentioned above.
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Old 02-15-2007, 12:02 PM   #14  
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A lot of people don't hate Sony but hate what they do sometimes/manytimes. I hate that they are trying to control both sides of the coin with the HD format. They already control a large content provider (Sony Studios), and they want to control the new format (Blu-ray) instead of it being controlled by all major companies like HD-DVD (DVD Forum).

Just look what they are doing WITH a competing HD format in regard to BD player cost, and lack of included HD audio decoders, multiple player profiles (planned obsolecence each year), etc etc.

Frankly, I do not see WHY ANYONE would choose this format for the above reasons. It is like saying "Please gouge me on prices, lack of features and force me to spend a fortune to get a newer player each year just so I can play the new interactive features added when Profile1.1 players come out in the summer, and please do it to me each year PLEASE".

THAT is what people are saying IF they choose BD as their format of choice whether they know it or not.
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Old 02-15-2007, 12:12 PM   #15  
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1. Price. Simply put, where else can you get such a loaded player with such high end equipment for only $500?
Agreed, nothing really comes close to the PS3 for what it offers at that price point.
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