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Paramount Drops Blu-ray DVD Technology
A sad truth in the field of TV technology is that the best technology is not always the one that triumphs when two competing technologies compete. The history of TV technology is littered with examples of this. The one most people are most familiar with is the format war between the Betamax and VHS video cassette formats. Even though VHS won this particular format war, many people argued that Betamax was actually the superior format. A less striking example can be seen in the first Laser Disc video format which was introduced around the same time as the VHS and Betamax tape formats. Laserdiscs were basically primitive DVDs that were about the same size as an old-fashioned vinyl record. Even though DVDs are now the preferred format over video cassettes, both video cassette formats have largely defeated the Laser Disc format when it comes to consumer video.
Right now we can see another example of this unfolding with the high definition DVD format wars. There are two formats in this war vying for control of the market. One format is called Blu-ray and it’s supported by Sony and a number of other hardware manufacturers and movie studios. Its rival is called HD DVD, invented by Toshiba and backed by Microsoft and a few other movie studios. Both of these formats are based on similar laser technology, both use discs the same size as standard DVDs, and neither format can be played on players of the other format.
Blu-ray format is the best in terms of data storage capacity. It can store approximately twenty-five gigabytes per side of a single disc for a total of fifty gigabytes per disc. On the other hand, the HD DVD format can store around fifteen gigabytes per side of a disc for a total of only around thirty gigabytes. Twenty gigabytes per disc is a very big difference between the two formats. To be fair, HD DVD has some proprietary interactive features that Blu-ray doesn’t.
Despite the technical superiority of Blu-ray – at least as a storage medium for computers – and the fact that it sells twice as much as HD DVD in terms of the number of discs sold, Blu-ray does not failed to win the format war. This is because a format war is driven by propaganda, alliance building and pricing tactics at least as much as it is driven by technological expertise.
The final blow to Blu-ray’s superiority was Paramount’s decision to only release high-definition DVDs in HD DVD format. Prior to this announcement, Paramount had released its titles in both formats, but now it has taken an edge in order to exclusively market and produce HD DVDs.
This was a blow to consumers and retailers as well as the Blu-ray format. Retailers who currently sell Paramount titles released on Blu-ray will not be restocking these discs, and Paramount has even flip-flopped by announcing that it will release recently released movies on Blu-ray.
While this move may be good for HD DVD, and Paramount has benefited from it in the short term, Paramount’s reputation is certainly blemished. Perhaps even irretrievably.
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