For those who may not know, I spend the majority of my working hours at either the Sharp or Toshiba campuses. The two companies have found themselves on opposite sides of the forthcoming format war. Toshiba has created, with its partners, HD-DVD, while Sharp has joined Sony’s Blu-Ray DVD camp. Now, while neither of the campuses I work at is directly involved with producing these next gen DVD systems, all the engineers are following the related news feeds quite closely.
My students are also well aware of how closely I follow the tech. news and we often hold discussions about new technologies and how they have, or may, impact daily life.
So, here’s the thing, none of us, not myself, the Toshiba engineers, nor the Sharp engineers can figure out why someone would want either system.
Ok, on paper, we can all agree that both systems look cool and have some pretty amazing new technology in them. Both technologies use an optical disc that can burn and store between 20 and 50 gigs per disc, depending on the details. Both systems are backwards compatible and will play standard DVDs. Both systems are really expenisve.
But, why do we need them? While both systems offer fantastic video and sound quality, the TVs that are capable of showing this fantastic tech. are few and far between. My wife and I use our computers to watch standard DVDs and we use her PC as our TV. Neither computer, nor our tiny 13 inch NTSC TV are capable of displaying the graphics that the new formats are designed to produce. To tell the truth, on our little TV, we can not really tell the difference between DVD and VHS, so why would we need even better graphics?
The second main reason that the advertisers are throwing at us as an incentive to buy is the amount of data that can be backed up on a single disc. Here’s the problem: I don’t need it. Most of my backups are done to a removable hard drive, with a smaller, more important fraction, being stored online through a dependable service. Why do I need to use HD-DVD or Blu-Ray to back-up my data?
The third thing that is making me wonder what all the fuss is about is the price. These two different technologies are still in the bleeding edge price range, which you should read as really expensive. By the time they come down in price, flash based memory will be availabe in smaller capacity, but safer and easier to use technologies. (Already, you can buy a four gig SD card. While it is a long way from 4 gigs to 50 gigs, flash cards and drives are more stable, infinately re-writeable, smaller to store, and easier to access than optical drives.)
There is one final point, that I’ll cover in part two of this post: I do not spend much money on DVDs anymore anyway, so why would I spend more on new, more expensive DVDs?
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