Since the conception of DVD, men in white cloaks across the globe have strived to develop the "next big thing" to replace what is essentially a rock solid, widely trusted format. Unfortunately it seems theyve been too successful, or rather - two successful.
In the red corner youve got HD-DVD, a steroid-fed version of its younger brother trained meticulously by Toshiba with its gloves sponsored by the likes of NEC and Microsoft. In the aptly named blue corner we have Sonys beloved Blu-ray - its coaching squad benched by the likes of Hitachi, Dell and Samsung. Two products, two choices, one winner?
Cast your mind back to 1975 (those of us too young, imagine afros and muscle cars and youre halfway there) when Sonys Betamax was introduced to the market, set to revolutionise the home televisual experience. But a year later along came JVC with VHS - DVDs retired step-brother - and stole Sonys limelight.
Think of it as an all-out format war, which raged on for a decade before VHS emerged victorious.
There are many similarities between the new format war and that of the 70s, but the main question on everyones lips is which will emerge the dominant format.
Personally I find myself asking: will there be a dominant format?
Taking the VHS-episode with a pinch of salt, one can barely hazard a guess as to which way this tie will go. VHS is said by many to have been the victor because of the larger recording time offered, but in comparison to todays formats it is doubtful that this will be the deciding factor.
The other slice of victory pie VHS was handed came in the form of the price of the units - a slightly more obvious factor to take into consideration. Thus far, HD-DVD has emerged the cheaper format, both for hardware and media production costs, with the original players roughly half the price of a Blu-ray player at around the $500 mark. Let us not forget that Blu-ray is launching at around $1000, the same price that the first DVD players went for roughly a decade ago.
But just one moment - does anyone remember DVD-Audio or Super Audio CDs? Thats right! They were both going to replace our trusty CDs due to superior sound quality and... well... I forget. In fact, I cant ever remember seeing either format on sale in my local CD shop - funny that? You could blame the rediculously high cost of a unit that would play an SACD, or simply pin it on the lack of requirement for another format.
Which way did the self-minded public go? We chose MP3s of course. Not only do MP3s offer worse sound quality than CDs, they dont come pre-packaged with pretty booklets in a neat plastic housing. A more modern and accurate description would be "digital audio" as MP3 is slowly being phased out by supposedly superior formats - I think I see a pattern forming.
Theres always the filesharing argument, but one must remember that digital audio was nearly single handedly responsible for Apples comeback with the famed iPod, and with services such as the iTunes Music Store digital audio is now a money-making business.
Sure, HD-DVD and Blu-ray will go to war, the fact that the Xbox360 will employ the former and Sonys PlayStation 3 the latter will no doubt throw a few slow-burning logs onto the fire - but will the public put themselves out to be part of this revolution? Well, only time will tell but Im leaning towards the "no" camp at this point.
The obvious downfall lies once more with the internet, as it did with DVD-A and SACD. As film downloads increase (both legally and illegally) surely the revolutions closer to your phone line than the local hardware boutique. There are more and more legal ways of downloading blockbusters than ever before and with the growth of media-centre PCs the jigsaw nears completion.
HD-DVD or Blu-ray? Or nothing? Let us know what you think!