HD-DVD and Blu Ray – Early Adoption?

I deserve a purple heart for my near fatal injuries in the last format war, SACD vs. DVD-Audio. I lost an arm and a leg investing in "future proof" Universal Disc Players and six extra boutique audio interconnects. I strained my eyes trying to find the anemic high resolution audio formats section in my local record mega-store (real record stores—the kind that sell records and CDs that aren’t James Blunt—never carried SACD and DVD-A and wouldn’t even buy them off you) until I needed to visit my optometrist. Like most war veterans, I was ridiculed by my peers for buying "dead audio formats" (this included vinyl, which has refused to whither like the two discs in this gorramn war). The wounds are too deep: I mean, I bought an abysmal Ryan Adams SACD out desperation for any content. I now cower at the dawn of another war.

It’s getting harder not to care about the high definition disc war between the Sony sponsored Blu Ray (BD) and Toshiba’s HD-DVD. I would glance over online and home theater magazine articles detailing the negotiations between the two sides, editors predicting a compromise could be reached, but secretly hoping the war would continue. After many delays, both formats, with limited hardware and software, hit store shelves at least a year late. But now consumers have product in their hands or at least able to demo the HD discs at their local home theater shoppe. Now the opinion is out of the hands of the marketers and into the market.

What the independent press (I mean way independent, like forum posts) has figured out so far:

  • HD-DVD is superior to Blu Ray software in the initial crop of discs: So far the only Blu Ray disc worthy of HD is Underworld: Evolution. Many of the HD-DVDs are catching good video ratings at least compared to OTA HD.
  • Sony is evil and arrogant: Sony loves trying to change the world with proprietary audio and video formats. The company thinks it will penetrate every Playstation owning household with their new, "affordable," Blu Ray player, the PS3 for only $599 (sometimes). The PS2 was never a great, or even good, DVD player, why should we think that the PS3 will be a good BD player.
  • Best Buy isn’t giving HD-DVD fair demo space: According to posts over on AVS forum, Best Buy is favoring Samsung’s $999 Blu Ray player over Toshiba’s $499 HD-DVD player on the demo floor.
  • The war is already over and the winner is frugal convenience: An editorial over at Audioholics offers that the formats have already failed and consumers will choose convenience (like HD video on demand, and the DVD collection they already own) over any whiz bang new tech.

My credit history will tell you that I’m an avid early adopter. My first DVD player could still play laser discs. My second DVD player could play DVD-Audio and SACD and has a Firewire port (for high res audio over a single cable, unfortunately my Onkyo AV receiver never came out with a Firewire upgrade like they promised). I stood in line in the wee hours of many mornings in line with hundreds of nerds and thugs ready to buy a PS2, only to purchase one through a contact at a video game publisher. I have no interest in volunteering my dollars into either side of the HD format war. My mind may change if one of the formats dies off, leaving no choice or if one of the electronics companies succeeds in making a universal player. With the recent history of new entertainment formats I’ll buy the HD universal player and then only use it for DVD playback.

I wish BD and HD-DVD all the luck and fortune of Beta, Mini-Disc, DVD-A, SACD, HDCD and DVHS. If you were on the marketing teams of these dead formats, congratulations, I wish you a fresh piece of cardboard and wet magic marker for your "Let’s be honest, I just want some beer" sign. If you don’t recognize half of the formats listed, you should buy that last guy a beer.

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