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HP Straddles HD DVD Fence

December 19, 2005 | Author: Ibex Marketing

The competition to become the standard format for high-definition content on DVD discs just got more confused, if that’s possible. HP has been a part of the Blu-ray development effort that is led by Sony. Earlier this fall, HP asked the Blu-ray camp to incorporate two features that were part of the competing HD DVD specification, but the group only decided to add one of the two.

HP has now announced that it is also joining the HD DVD group. “By joining the HD-DVD Promotions Group and continuing work with the Blu-ray Disc Association, HP will be in a better position to assess true development costs and, ultimately, provide the best and most affordable solution for consumers,” according to Maureen Weber, general manager of HP’s Personal Storage Business.

This is not good news for Blu-ray, but it’s not clear how bad the news is. Microsoft has already thrown its support behind the two features in HD DVD that HP wanted added to Blu-ray. These are reportedly going to be part of the new Vista Windows operating system, and are designed to help consumers distribute content to various devices around the home over wired and wireless networks. HP is making a strong play in consumer electronics, but remains an IT company at heart, so it’s no surprise that they’re buying into Microsoft’s model where the computer becomes the center of entertainment activity in the home, and not the television set.

It’s still too close to call, folks. HD DVD media should be cheaper to produce, but Blu-ray media has greater capacity. HD DVD may come to market first, but Blu-ray drives are expected to ship in every one of Sony’s new Playstation 3 consoles, which could result in an overnight installed base. And traditional red-laser DVDs are using DiVX and MPEG-4 to compress HD content to fit on existing DVDs. It’s at least a three-horse race at this point, and I’m not ready to handicap the results at this point.