Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

My HD-DVD Experience and Impressions on the Format War

For the last couple weeks, has had an absolutely smokin' deal on the Xbox 360 HD-DVD Drive. IMO, it's a better deal than the $100 players from Best Buy. For $170, you get the drive (which comes with King Kong in the box), plus Heroes Season 1 on HD-DVD (which retails by itself for $70). On top of all of that, Microsoft and Toshiba have switched up their 5 Free HD-DVD collection with a much better selection of movies. So you get a drive plus 12 HD-DVD discs for the same price as the drive itself used to be. It was a deal that I just couldn't pass up. The package came on Tuesday, and I've been having a great time getting my home theatre set up the way I want, and enjoying my new HD-DVDs.

So then I found out that, while Blockbuster has been a huge Blu-Ray supporter, they still have a pretty serious collection of HD-DVDs in their "Total Access" program. Unfortunately, you'd never know it, because the site hardly says anything about it, and it's buried under the "Collections" menu item. But I cleared out my queue and loaded it up with a bunch of movies that I already love that I can't wait to see in hi-def.

Then yesterday I came across this website explaining what HD-DVD is to the consumer. Microsoft built and owns the site, which I found to be very interesting. They have a huge stake in the HD-DVD war for reasons other than the Xbox 360. For example, I found out here that Microsoft is building a reference player that uses Windows CE6 to enable a simpler platform. Microsoft also designed the HDi standard, and this page explains how it works, and links to sample code. There is some interesting content on the site, but I definitely have some issues with it.

So I think that Microsoft's attempt to engage the consumer this way is a good thing overrall, but this site needs a LOT of work. For starters, why isn't the whole thing done in Silverlight? You're talking about high-definition and high-interactivity, but the site is about as interactive as a post. They should be using tons of eye-candy to blow people out of the water on how cool HD-DVD is. And Microsoft has a whitepaper on the home page that talks about why they support HD-DVD.... it's one of the most boring whitepapers I've ever seen... and I've read a lot of whitepapers. If they expect a consumer to read that document, they're totally nuts.

If this site is targeted at consumers, Microsoft needs to step it up a notch. If it's targeted at content providers, they could still do a much better job explaining the business case for why the HD-DVD experience is just better.

However, having said that, I think that HD-DVD has hit the sweet spot when it comes to price point, and that the holidays will be a turning point for the format. So far, my experience with it has been nothing short of fantastic, and I can't wait to build out my collection. Hopefully all of the other 90,000 people that bought HD-DVD drives last week will go out and buy a bunch of movies on the format, so that the studios will capitulate and put movies like Spiderman 3 on HD-DVD too.

BTW, I think it's funny that in the face of HD-DVD's overwhelming week, that Sony CEO Howard Stringer just today called the format war a "stalemate", and "a difficult fight." I wonder how long they'll hold out before they're forced to concede defeat. And I wonder what a Blu-Ray defeat will do to the PS3. We'll see come February, after everyone has cashed in their holiday gift cards. Maybe soon the studios will start supporting both formats... then the consumer will truly "win".

Why I Think HD-DVD Will Win:

  • Better player price point
  • Better product bundles
  • Better title pricing
  • Better format protection (HD-DVD/DVD combo discs, like ST:TOS Season 1)
  • Better overall experience
Posted on Nov 09 2007, 09:40 AM by Robert McLaws
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  • Hmm, I musta missed the part where you explain why you think HD DVD will win.

    November 9, 2007 2:46 PM
  • Andrew Simpson said:

    Also, reading that article was kinda a waste of time, HD-DVD does definitely use blue lasers.

    You need the shorter wavelength for the resolution, otherwise you hit a hard physical diffraction limit. I think it's about 405 nm. Ideally the shorter the better. Anyways, definitely blue.

    November 9, 2007 2:58 PM
  • I corrected the article with new information and a better title. Sorry for the confusion.

    November 11, 2007 8:30 PM
  • Aaron said:

    Robert, do you have a blue-ray experience to compare your HD-DVD one to? You dont even mention the capacities on each format. This article seems pointless because we know you love MS and of course you think they are going to win.

    November 12, 2007 8:19 AM
  • I don't understand why you guys think I'm in love with everything Microsoft does... if you go back and read my stuff, I'm often a very vocal critic. Even this post criticized some of the things MS is doing on that HD-DVD website.

    I also don't understand why I have to go through a point-by-point comparison for my opinion to be valid. Am I not allowed to write opinion pieces anymore?

    Regarding Blu-Ray, I do have some experience with it, as I've used a couple different players before, although I don't own one. I think Blu-Ray will fail because of Sony's boneheaded moves, like not pricing it competitively, and making it a part of the Playstation 3. That was a really stupid move, because their destinies are completely tied together, whereas if HD-DVD fails, the Xbox 360 will continue to succeed.

    November 12, 2007 12:47 PM
  • DosFreak said:

    Meh. I'll buy the media once I'm sure that the protection is 100% broken and movies can easily be ripped on release.

    I'm also waiting to see how effective Slysoft is at cracking BD+ and how long that will last.

    Only then will I bother.

    DVD's are just fine.

    November 12, 2007 1:08 PM
  • PocketDragon said:

    Robert, thanks for the Blockbuster tip. They completely obscure the fact that the support HD-DVD, complete with new listings.

    The funny thing is that nobody will complain the money probably changed hands to have Blockbuster hide the fact that they have current and future HD-DVDs. I can't see any other reason why the wouldn't list them, yet keep them in inventory and order new ones....

    Maybe one of the numerous ABM crowd can fill me in...

    November 25, 2007 6:02 PM