February 18, 2008: Format War is Over, BluRay Wins

After recent decisions by Walmart and Warner Bros. to not support Toshiba’s HD-DVD format, Toshiba has finally decided that maintaining the format war is no longer advantageous and that the far superior BluRay format has won. HD-DVD faced an uphill battle from the beginning as it was able to carry such a small amount of data – just half that of BluRay – that it simply did not have the long term viability of BluRay and would not be suitable in as many situations such as computer data backup or television serials which can fit on half as many BluRay Discs at the same quality. This is a good day for the high end home theatre market which can now move forward with confidence and move past the antiquated DVD format with its MPEG2 compression scheme.

Much of the market issues have been caused by confusion for buyers being unable to identify high end video media formats one from another. This is not the fault of BD and HD-DVD, however, as even many (or possibly most) news outlets have been referring to both formats as forms of DVDs which they most certainly are not. An HD-DVD or a BluRay Disc are no more DVD than a CD is or a Laserdisc is. These are five discrete and independent formats that share little in common other than their size and the fact that they are plastic based media carriers. But few consumers have the ability to clearly discern a DVD from a CD (both can be audio, data or video carriers in common usage) even after both formats have widely run their courses and are about to be retired. So expecting them to grasp modern formats is sadly asking too much.

For those who did any research into the formats it was clear that BluRay had a huge advantage and no format that isn’t supported by the high end market ever survives. Videophiles are often the earliest adopters of any new format and they are willing to do research and generally understand the reasons for choosing formats. To this market, as well as the computer data market, HD-DVD was a senseless format aimed at using a confusing nomenclature to grab uneducated market share quickly. But the uneducated consumer market is not heavy in the early adopter space and that mistake sealed the fate of HD-DVD.

More importantly, however, I believe is that BluRay will not be a highly successful format simply because the era of physical media is waning and there is little need for it today. For a short time it will pick up steam and surpass DVD but with its slow start caused by market confusion it did not get the foothold that it needed while network deliver mechanism were still nascent and now it will face a very difficult and ultimately impossibly battle with “instant satisfaction” network based deliver systems.

At the moment BluRay must face competition from AppleTV, Amazon UnBox, Netflix and on-demand cable and satellite services in addition to ad-hoc Internet based delivery systems. But BluRay has a minor upfront advantage in that its massive storage capacity is extremely difficult to compete with over these network delivery systems. But this capacity is only an advantage when the content will be viewed on high end devices and only when the original content exists in a quality high enough to warrant the extra storage space. (This is another reason why HD-DVD could not survive, its meager storage capacity would be eclipsed much sooner by content delivery networks.) At the moment only 1080p cinematic content is really of high enough value to be worth the extra effort of using BluRay. But as network speeds increase, network based content availability increases and as network based systems continue to refine and redefine compression algorithms the static BluRay format will fall farther and farther behind.

Today is President’s Day and I have the day off from the office. I spent the last two days relaxing and today I have to take my final exam in my Project Management class. Oreo is home with me but Dominica had to go to work today. But her friend Katie as the day off and is going in to have lunch with Dominica and the crew at her office.

I slept in a little this morning but not too long. I was up around nine in the morning. It was nice to get to really relax though. I am ready to face the day. The plan is to feed and walk Oreo early this morning and to go right on to my exam so that I can get that out of the way. It is always a concern that Oreo will interrupt me during the exam since the exam is timed and is three hours long.

I ended up not being able to work on my exam this morning due to a “Trojan horse” emergency in Ithaca that ended up taking my entire day. The malware ended up being one that could not be identified by any software that I was able to get my hands on including Symantec, McAfee, Trend Micro, Kaspersky or Panda. I eventually learned that the malware was utilizing Window’s explorer.exe and that if I shut that process down that it appeared that the system was functioning correctly otherwise. That was no little trick though since the Trojan had used Group Policy Objects to lock out the Task Manager. What a day.

This would not have been so bad had I not had one disaster after another on my own network. By the end of the day my Netgear FVG318 finally just started to die. It has been having problems for quite some time and over the past week or so the wireless has completely died. It no longer has a functioning interface to the wireless settings nor is there any wireless coming from the unit at all. Today it decided to completely restart itself and reset itself to system defaults but later added other custom settings back in. And by the afternoon it started going through a slow death requiring me to restart it by physically unplugging and plugging it back in once an hour. It would start off fine but slowly degrade over the course of the house from stable to instable to just plain off.

So I spent at least ten hours today dealing with that virus and/or my own network. It was awful. The work was hard and extremely stressful. And it took every possibly free second of my day. It was all that I could do to get Oreo fed and walked. He ended up spending the entire day in bed leaving me to my work.

Dominica picked up dinner from On the Border near her office so that I could just eat and get back to work. The food was good – beer battered fish tacos. We really liked it and will be adding that to our food rotation.

I think that I forgot to mention previously that we have decided to get Oreo a doggy potty that will go in the apartment. Our lifestyle is just so difficult for him even though we work very hard to accommodate his needs. He needs a place to go in the apartment and there are a lot of times when we need him to be able to do so. So Dominica ordered that over the weekend and we are hoping to have it by the end of the week. It is a 38″x20″ artificial turf unit that we are going to put next to the book shelf behind the recliner in the living room. It is made of black plexiglass. We really hope that he will learn to use it. It will make us all much happier.

I finally managed to start my final exam at about eight thirty in the evening. Nothing like waiting until the last minute. It is a three hour exam and must be completed by midnight. In a pinch I was going to take my laptop down to the lounge to work but that would have been dreadfully uncomfortable considering the amount of writing that needed to be done.

I wrapped up around eleven thirty and was thoroughly exhausted but unable to sleep. Dominica spent the evening watching the DVDs of Christie that dad had lent to us. I had wanted to watch it too but simply do not have enough time to watch everything that Dominica watches and we just have to pick and choose quite a bit. The more that we have that she can watch without me, the better.

Since I couldn’t go right to sleep and since Dominica wasn’t really sleepy either we decided to start watching the new, direct to DVD cartoon, Dragons of Autumn Twilight based on the amazing novel by Margaret Weis and Tracey Hickman that kicked off the Dragonlance series of novels in the 1980s. In recent years there has been a young reader adaptation of the book series as well with this first chapter being made available as two novels “A Rumor of Dragons” and “Night of the Dragons“.

We watched about half of the movie which, unfortunately but expectedly, did not deliver at all on the incredible depth of the original novel. “Dragons of Autumn Twilight” is one of the truly great, ground-breading novels in the fantasy genre with deep character development and along, involved storyline. The character interactions are great and the world is lush and realistic. It was this novel that first drew me into fantasy literature when I was between the ages of ten and twelve in the 1980s. The book was original published in 1984 and I have the original trilogy in their original first edition printing.

The Dungeons and Dragons game is on for tomorrow.  This is our secondary group with just four players in which I actually get to play instead of Dungeon Mastering.  Tomorrow night will be the first time that we actually get a chance to play instead of just setting up the characters.

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