HP to Blu-ray: Take us seriously, or we'll join HD DVD


Fort Collins (CO) - Hewlett-Packard is turning up the heat on the Blu-ray Disc Association, of which HP is a member, to consider and adopt its two requests for changes to its proposed specifications for next-generation video discs. In an exclusive interview with TG Daily, HP's representative to the BDA told us that if the BDA is unwilling to consider adopting mandatory managed copy and the iHD interactive layer, the company is prepared to change its official support stance to neutral, and join the HD DVD Promotions Group.

Josh Peterson, HP's director of strategic alliances for its Optical Storage Solutions group, told us his company's 180-degree change of opinion on these two technologies, announced last week, came about as a direct result of our coverage of Microsoft's and Intel's announced decision to join the HD DVD Promotions Group. Last 30 September, in our first interview with Peterson, he commented on the two companies' list of grievances, claiming at that time they had misrepresented certain facts about the Blu-ray Disc format.

"Your article actually led to a few meetings that may not have happened otherwise," Peterson told us late yesterday. Up until last month, he said, discussions between HP and Microsoft on the subject of next-generation video discs had been limited to requests of the other party to please switch sides. "After your last article where I had been quoted," he continued, "there were some Microsoft responses on some blogs...disagreeing with some of my statements."

Direct face-to-face meetings between HP and Microsoft officials in the intervening weeks, Peterson told us, led to a complete change of perspective and stance on his company's part. Said Peterson, Microsoft re-educated HP about mandatory managed copy and the iHD interactive layer, revealing new facts to HP that the company had not seen before.

As we reported last week, HP publicly announced that it was requesting the BDA change its own position on mandatory managed copy and iHD, which movie studios belonging to the BDA have openly opposed. "If the BDA does adopt iHD, as we formally requested, and revisit that decision that was made six months ago," stated Peterson, "then that's going to add a lot of energy to the unification talks." Principal elements of the two competing formats, said Peterson, would become the same or similar, making unification of the two formats much more feasible.

"I would say [unification] would happen sooner if the BDA considers our requests and actually implements our two requests," said Peterson. However, he added a stern and unmistakable warning: "If the BDA decides that they just can't, it's too late to change from BD-J to iHD for interactive applications, I think that's really unfortunate, obviously from HP's perspective, and we will have to support whatever technology is most cost-effective and user friendly. And in that case, we would go out and support HD DVD."

HP would not rescind its support of Blu-ray, added Peterson. Rather, the company would adopt a public stance of neutrality, similar to the position Warner Bros. and Paramount are currently taking, by supporting both sides equally and simultaneously. But to accomplish this, said Peterson, HP would join the HD DVD Promotions Group, whose membership recently increased with the addition of Intel and Microsoft. "If we're going to be taking a more neutral stance, then that would be a logical move for us to make," said Peterson. "We would try to make sure that we have a clear understanding of the HD DVD position, and have an understanding of the technical roadmaps, and start qualifying HD DVD drives. That would be our logical move if we can't make Blu-ray Disc more cost-effective to implement in the PC space."

Making certain his warning isn't ignored, Peterson added that HP might not make this decision alone. "We are talking to other PC manufacturers in the Blu-ray Disc Association," he told TG Daily, "and we are sharing our position with them. If we were to make that decision, we would hope that we could keep the PC industry united."

Dell and Apple are the other two prominent PC manufacturers belonging to the Blu-ray Disc Association. Dell is an ally with Microsoft on many other technologies; and if Apple were to part waves with the BDA - which is led by Sony - some might say there wouldn't be any love lost there as well.

"If we become neutral," added HP's Peterson, "we would hope that others in our industry would become neutral as well. I'm not in a position to speak for them, but that would be our hope."