The latest delays for the Sony PS3 are reportedly caused by problems with getting parts for the Blu-Ray DVD players that are to be part of the package. And now Sony says that they are only going to ship 100,000 units for the entire USA in November. How many stores will be carrying it? If each one takes a unit as a floor model, there goes a large portion of the month’s shipments. And there goes Blu-Ray’s hopes of quickly establishing a large market for Blu-Ray discs. The competing HD DVD has an advantage in speed to market (and lower cost) which could translate into a larger installed base, at least at the start.
But speed to market is not a guarantee for success; just look at the history of DVD-RAM versus DVD+/-RW on the computer side. However, a new development has cropped up that may be the tipping point for HD DVD’s eventual success.
Memory-Tech and Toshiba have announced the development of a new three-layer disc format. One layer of this single-sided disc can be standard DVD format, and another can be the new high-density HD-DVD format. And the third layer can be a second layer of either the DVD or the HD-DVD format, depending on the content producer’s choice.
What does this mean? It means that you can take this one disc and either drop it into a standard DVD player — for a standard definition playback — or into an HD-DVD player for a high-def version of the content. Why is this important? It means that consumers and video rental stores will only have to buy one disc that supports both versions. If the consumer has a DVD player and later upgrades, then the investment in these dual-format discs will not be wasted.
Memory-Tech and Toshiba are taking this new format to the DVD Forum for approval. I’m not aware of anything equivalent on the Blu-Ray side of things, and I’m not sure that it’s possible to create a single-sided disc that is compatible with both DVD and Blu-Ray. If this new format is approved and can be manufactured without adding a premium to the normal HD DVD disc prices, then this could be the deciding factor in the contest between HD DVD and Blu-Ray.