Blu-Ray vs. HD DVD: Is History Repeating Itself?

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The battle over the next generation DVD format, which will be a lucrative market for the winner, is fascinating because once again history is repeating itself. This battle pits Sony’s next generation Blu-Ray disc against Toshiba’s HD DVD format. Why do I say history is repeating itself? Well some of you may be old enough to remember the old Betamax tape. This is the video tape format that Sony developed in the mid 70s that eventually lost the VCR format wars to VHS which was developed by JVC. What is interesting was the way in which VHS won. While Sony was battling the movie industry in the US courts, because the movie industry felt threatened by the Betamax tape, JVC when it introduced VHS tape convinced the movie industry that they could earn additional revenue streams by releasing their movies on VHS. In addition to this, they also licensed their technology to other manufactures thus increasing their installed base of VCRs. Very smart move, great strategy! And thus Betamax lost even though Betamax was considered a technologically superior product.

Now we see the battle looming again with the next generation DVD format. Now the battle is between Sony and Toshiba with Sony’s Blu-Ray disk format being considered technologically superior to Toshiba’s HD DVD. But Toshiba say that their format is not only cheaper, but will be out sooner.

Both Sony and Toshiba have both been working hard to win over the movie and the software powerhouses. Sony has some advantage over Toshiba in that it owns Sony Pictures (Columbia Pictures), Sony Music Entertainment and Sony Electronic Publishing thus giving it some leverage to release movies and software in the Blu-Ray format. The impetus for Sony’s acquisition of Columbia Pictures came from lessons learned from the Betamax/VHS battle. But the key will be either to get enough backing from the major movie and software/gaming console powerhouses to tip the scale in one’s favor, or if it is technologically feasible, have drives that are able to support both formats. I am not quite sure that either option bad option at all

Who will win this battle? That remains to be seen… but maybe both will share and win alike…

Reference: BBC: Sony wins major DVD studio ally
Reference: HBS: Being There: Sony Corp. and Columbia Pictures

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