NEC Seeks To End Format War Hostilities
Sony and Microsoft are duking it out in every possible respect, and one of the biggest issues revolves around the format war. Microsoft's Xbox 360 is backing Toshiba's HD-DVD with November's release of the HD-DVD add-on, and Sony is pushing their new Blu-Ray functionality, which is part of the PS3's hardware.
A final resolution probably isn't likely any time soon, but in the meantime, NEC has devised a chip that could help companies bridge the gap. The chip, which is basically a controller, works for both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players, and this chip could cut the cost of building a player that is compatible with both formats.
NEC has plans to begin shipping the chip in April 2007, but a combo-player could take a little longer to produce. Initially, companies like Pioneer and LG announced they'd pursue combination players, but they've since backed down. The reason is mostly due to the cost. Blu-Ray players cost about $1,000, and the player/recorders run up to $3,200. HD-DVD players start off at about $500, but the recorders cost about the same. The components for everything are still very expensive, although they do expect declining costs next year.
But even with those price drops, building a hybrid player would certainly have to include redundant components. Futhermore, royalties are a big factor. The companies that created the standards are set to make millions in licensing fees, provided that standard gets widely adopted. And therefore, if there were to be a hybrid player, the royalties would have to be split between both camps.
Either way, both sides remain pretty darn passionate about who's "right" and who's "wrong." Last week at a Ceatec trade show in Japan, Kazuhiro Tsuga, an executive officer at Matsushita Electric and a staunch supporter of Blu-Ray, answered one question with a very straightforward reply. In response to the possibility of a hybrid Blu-Ray/HD-DVD player, he said-
"That is stupid, stupid."
However, other manufacturers are more open-minded, especially if the format wars ultimately hinder sales. Hitachi, a company currently developing a camcorder that will record directly to Blu-Ray discs, said it will look into the issue of a combo-player, but after Blu-Ray is already established in the marketplace.
10/11/2006 Ben Dutka