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The Arrival of Blu-ray Technology Blu-ray- also known as Blu-ray Disc (BD), is the name of a next-generation optical disc format which was jointly developed by the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA), a group of the world’s leading consumer electronics, personal computer and media manufacturers (including Apple, Dell, Hitachi, HP, JVC, LG, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, TDK and Thomson).

As compared to the current optical disc format such as DVD, this new format allows users to record, rewrite and playback high-definition (HD) video and store large amounts of data. In fact, Blu-ray’s storage capacity is five times more than traditional DVDs, which can hold up to 25GB on a single-layer disc and 50GB on a dual-layer disc. This high storage capability has also allowed additional content and special features such as downloading extras, updating content via the web, and watching live broadcasts of special events.

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In addition, when combined with the new BD-J interactivity layer, the users’ experience in watching a Blu-ray movie will be greatly enhanced. For instance, while the director explains the shooting of a scene, we are able to view the scene playing in the background simultaneously. Besides storage capacity and interactivity, high-definition is another reason why Blu-ray is better; a blue-violet laser (405nm) has a shorter wavelength than a red laser (650nm), hence the laser spot is able to focus with greater precision.

Compared to DVDs, which only supports standard-definition (SD), Blu-ray supports HDTV and offers five times more detail in the clarity and sharpness of picture, and as well as better enhancement effects in HD video and audio quality. Besides Blu-ray, HD-DVD is the other new high-density DVD format competing to be the next-generation optical disc format. The HD-DVD format which is supported by NEC, Toshiba, and Sanyo, relies on the blue-laser technology as well. However, as compared, Blu-ray has a much bigger storage capacity and a higher data transfer rate for both video and audio.

So do consumers prefer Blu-ray or HD-DVD? According to an independent study conducted by Cymfony (a market influence analytic company) on the new HD video formats and players, between October 1, 2006 and November 23, 2006, there are 46 percent (in a total of 17,664 posts) higher positive discussions about HD-DVD with authors stating being “impressed with HD-DVD” vs. “impressed with Blu-ray”. On the other hand, few posts has discussed the high storage capacity and advance interactivity.

Consumers now prefer HD-DVD to Blu-ray but which of the two formats will have a greater competitive advantage in being the dominant design (i. e. a product design that is adopted by the majority of producers, typically creating a stable architecture on which the industry can focus its effort)? Reportedly, Blu-ray seem likely to emerge as the winner with the following reasons; firstly, Blu-ray format has received broad support from seven of the eight major movie studios (Warner, Paramount, Fox, Disney, Sony, MGM and Lionsgate), while HD-DVD has support from three major movie studios (Warner, Paramount and Universal).

This means that consumers would not be able to buy their favourite movies in other formats if the studios only support one of the formats. Secondly, Blu-ray has also received hardware support from some of the global market leaders in consumer electronics, personal computer and media manufacturers, such as Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Sony, Samsung, and Panasonic and etc. whereas HD-DVD is only supported by NEC, Toshiba, and Sanyo. However results have been controversial.

Though Sony has released its PlayStation 3 (PS3) with a Blu-ray optical drive which was described by analyst Ross Rubin of NPD (a market research firm) “an effective Trojan horse for Blu-ray” , this was however disputed by the study from Cymfony, which has shown that gamers were actually unhappy that the PS3 game console included a Blu-ray player, as this resulted in an increased in consumers cost which they do not have the option to choose whether to incur. In terms of costs, though HD-DVD was the first mover into the market, it is currently less expensive and has more films available in that format.

Blu-ray on the other hand, is likely to be more expensive as a result of low economies of scale in its current production volumes. However, according to Blu-ray Disc Association, as production volume increases and costs fall, the costs would eventually be comparable to DVDs. Similarly, it is believed that the wide range of Blu-ray complementary products such as players, recorders, drives, writers, media, etc, would help to enhance the value of Blu-ray technology by attracting users and increasing the installed base.

Based on the technology evolution model developed by Utterback and Abernathy, Blu-ray technology can be described as being in the later stage of its fluid phrase, and progressing to move onto the next phrase, the specific phrase, where architecture eventually stabilizes. HD-DVD on the other side, held first mover advantage in the next generation optical disc format market, and is also leading the market currently with its lower costs.

Hence, it would be a tough war between the formats in the years to come, and as quoted from a major label source: “The consumer has some time before they weigh in on what format they want. ” –The winner is yet to have emerged. Table 1: Difference between Blu-ray and HD-DVD. Source: Blu-ray. com Parameters Blu-rayHD-DVD Storage capacity 25GB (single-layer) 50GB (dual-layer)15GB (single-layer) 30GB (dual-layer) Laser wavelength 405nm (blue laser) 405nm (blue laser) Numerical aperture (NA) 0. 85 0. 65

Disc diameter Disc thickness120mm 1. 2mm120mm 1. 2mm Protection layer Hard coating0. 1mm Yes0. 6mm No Track pitch0. 32µm 0. 40µm Data transfer rate (data) Data transfer rate (video/audio)36. 0Mbps (1x) 54. 0Mbps (1. 5x)36. 55Mbps (1x) 36. 55Mbps (1x) Video resolution (max) Video bit rate (max)1920? 1080 (1080p) 40. 0Mbps1920? 1080 (1080p) 28. 0Mbps Video codecs MPEG-2 MPEG-4 AVC SMPTE VC-1MPEG-2 MPEG-4 AVC SMPTE VC-1 Audio codecs Linear PCM Dolby Digital Dolby Digital Plus Dolby TrueHD DTS Digital Surround

DTS-HDLinear PCM Dolby Digital Dolby Digital Plus Dolby TrueHD DTS Digital Surround DTS-HD InteractivityBD-JHDi What is Blu-ray? . Available from: http://www. blu-ray. com/info/. Accessed on: 25 Feb 2007. See Table 1: Difference between Blu-ray and HD-DVD. Source: Blu-ray. comConsumer Opinions and trends report by Cymfony, 5 Dec 2006. Available from: http://www. cymfony. com/Blu-ray. pdf Accessed on: 25 Feb 2007 Seff, Jonathan, 8 OPTICAL DRIVES: BLU-RAY VERSUS HD DVD, Macworld, 07418647, Jan2007, Vol. 24, Issue 1

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