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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

In high-def format war, Blu-ray trumps HD DVD locally

After more than a year of playing tug-of-war with HD DVD, or High Definition DVD, it appears that Blu-ray Disc may have emerged as the front-runner in the format war.

The two companies have been dueling for domination of the high-definition DVD market since they released their first movie titles in 2006.

"Blu-ray is definitely winning the war," said Andrew Cohen, the general manager of the three Gainesville Blockbuster locations.

Of the Blockbuster stores and two Hollywood Video stores in Gainesville, only one store carries HD DVDs.

All three Blockbuster stores carry Blu-ray Discs, and about a dozen people come looking for Blu-ray rentals on a weekday, while close to 20 come in on the weekends, Cohen said.

They get three to four new titles each week, and he expects that number to continue growing in the future.

This comes after parent company Blockbuster Inc. announced last June that it would expand Blu-ray Disc inventory to 1,700 Blockbuster stores by mid-July. It announced it would continue to offer HD DVD titles through its online rental service and in a select number of stores, according to its press release.

Cohen said his stores carry close to 100 movie titles in Blu-ray Disc.

That number has grown significantly from when they first started offering them last June, Cohen said. They started out with about a half-dozen titles, but are now constantly adding new movies and expanding their catalog of older titles.

Blu-ray Discs are winning the format war among movie studios as well.

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. announced on Jan. 4 that it would start releasing its high-definition DVD titles exclusively in the Blu-ray Disc format this June, according to a press release.

Cohen said this leaves the already struggling HD DVD with two major movie studios, Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures, still making their movies in the HD DVD format.

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He attributes the growing popularity of Blu-ray Discs to the large population of students who own PlayStation 3s, which can be used as Blu-ray Disc players.

HD DVD lacks the added support of having a popular game console equipped with the ability to play the format. It does offer an attachment to turn an Xbox 360 into an HD DVD player. Other than that, customers must purchase specifically designed HD DVD players.

The feud between the two formats originates with the invention of the blue laser, said Peter Zory, a professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering at UF.

Zory, who worked with Philips Electronics on the first CDs in the 1980s, likens the format war between Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD to a similar situation in the 1980s.

"It's exactly the same conflict," he said. "VHS won, and Beta is no more."

Zory is not entirely convinced that the battle lies between the two high-definition DVD formats. After seeing Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveil the new MacBook Air laptop last week, Zory believes there is a bigger threat looming on the horizon.

A computer as tiny as the MacBook Air can't even play discs.

Zory thinks the future of home video watching lies in flash memory drives and that Blu-ray Discs, HD DVDs and DVDs alike are doomed.

"I'm sorry to say that," Zory said. "I was in the beginning of all these things, working on the lasers, so I don't like to see laser applications go down the tubes, but this is such an amazing thing," he added, holding the tiny memory stick in his hand.

He believes Blu-ray Discs will win out the format war and that people will use them for long-term storage. But for short-term, flash drives are the way to go.

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