The past decade has been an exciting one for High Definition (HD) technology. After HDTVs were introduced in 1998, the industry evolved into the current 21st century’s TV display standard, offering the world clear, crisp, and life-like resolutions that blur the line between television and reality.

As HD technology gained acceptance in the TV broadcast industry, there was a growing need to record, store, and play HD quality material. The biggest problem was that HD quality material needed at least three times as much disc capacity than regular CDs and DVDs.

In 2002, Sony introduced Blu-Ray, a high density optical disc implementing the use of blue, ultraviolet lasers to read the information on the disc rather than the conventional red lasers based in current CD and DVD players. Blue lasers have a shorter wavelength (405nm) which can store up to 50GB of information on a dual-layer disc (that’s about six times as much information as a regular dual-layer DVD). However, companies’ loyalties were torn because there was evidence that Blu-Ray was not a stable disc format and required a special case to protect the embedded material. This led a group of companies, chaired by Toshiba, to come out with their own version of blue laser optical discs: HD-DVD.

The format battle continued with both sides hoping to be the DVD successor. Over the years, this format battle filtered into various industries such as computer, film, and gaming. Major computer companies and film studios were asked to choose sides, causing a split between movie studios. Sony launched their PS3 game system with integrated Blu-Ray players while Microsoft distributed XBOX 360s with an HD DVD add-on. The discs could only play on their respective formats and some hardware companies like LG even created dual players that could play both Blu-Ray and HD-DVDs. From the consumer perspective, people decided to place bets on which system would win out in the end while others chose to wait before investing in other HD-related products.

Nevertheless, the eventual winner was Blu-Ray when Toshiba announced on February 19, 2008 that they would stop production on HD DVDs and switch over to their competitor.

The first few days after this announcement were filled with cheers for Blu-Ray as well as signs of regret from those who had invested in HD-DVD components. After these initial responses, however, doubt began to set in. Some say that HD-DVD and Blu-Ray camps may have focused too much on their own technology war that they overlooked the appearance of a few trends in the past year. Yes, Blu-Ray triumphed over HD DVD, but is the war really over?

Recently, consumer trends became increasingly “digital,” which could become an issue for the DVD industry. Mobile devices now have access to the Internet, GPS maps, and streaming videos. The Internet has soared to new heights with YouTube and full episodes on various broadcast station websites. The iTunes store sells TV shows, movies, and music at the click of a button and recently announced their movie rental program. Even Apple’s MacBook Air gets rid of the optical drive altogether. It is very possible that Blu-Ray’s new opponent is Digital Media.

Although Blu-Ray may have another battle to fight, the current industry’s insiders and experts look at Blu-Ray as the DVD champion. Disc players, recorders, and DVDs will definitely get cheaper and more affordable for a wider range of consumers. Internationally, it is also expected that HDTV will become the home standard television set in the near future.

Along side Blu-Ray’s development, it is worthwhile noting that in the USA, “federal law requires that all full-power television broadcast stations stop broadcasting in analog format and broadcast only in digital format” by February 17, 2009.

It may be a while before Digital Media takes off. In the meantime, consumers can wait just a bit longer for their favorite HD-DVD titles to finally come out on Blu-Ray. With all of these new developments and product lines rushing to get the latest components out, this is an excellent time to invest in HD technology at least, until the next best thing comes along (Jackie)

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