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TG Daily Top-10: Most significant Hardware of 2006

HD DVD, Blu-ray (tie)

Mark Raby

What is it:
Two formats competing for acceptance as the successor to the DVD

Why we chose it:
Home media format wars have historically been some of the most costly and drawn out projects in the entertainment industry. Of the many video formats that have been released, only two (VHS and DVD) can genuinely say that they have reached mass acceptance.

Whereas the jump from VHS was to create a format that was completely digital, the move to advance the DVD is to increase capacity and support full 1080p high-definition playback. Players for both formats launched this year and no matter how you look at it, either both or one of them will win and will be under TV sometime down the road.

The DVD Forum officially recognizes HD DVD as the new successor. Blu-ray, backed and massively promoted by Sony, is still trying to come out on top. Time will tell, if Sony has more luck this time around or if Blu-ray will be another notch in Sony's failed format belt. The electronics giant has already swept Betamax, MiniDisc, Super Audio CD, Digital Audio Tape, MultiMedia CD, and UMD under the rug.

While a new format is suggested at least every couple years or so, there's another interesting aspect of the next-gen DVD race that's being closely watched, and it's the intersection with the video game console wars. The PS3 was long known to include a Blu-ray Disc player, and in November, the Xbox 360 HD DVD attachment made its debut.

We do not claim to know if either HD DVD or Blu-ray are actually going to become the norm in the future of home media, but it does kick off the move towards a new format that makes traditional DVD obsolete, which is undeniably going to happen at some point. No reason to get worried about that just yet: While 1.5 million HD DVDs have been sold this year, the mass market still relies on standard definition DVD. If Kagan Research is right, then HD media shipments will grow by a factor of 33 within three years, translating into a market share of about 14%. Standard DVD will be outdated by about 2012, Kagan believes.

What it means to you:
HDTV has begun to penetrate a significant chunk of homes in America, and as demand for true hi-def content increases, there is going to be a migration to a format that supports such an output. No doubt, if high-def gets you excited and if the TV and your home theaters consume a considerable part of your life, then it is time to get the development of HD DVD and Blu-ray in your focus.

Predictions for 2007:
The HD format war will really begin to take off next year, with the PS3 becoming much more widely available and consumer awareness about the formats continues to grow, combined with price cuts in base models of players. While we currently can simply say that HD DVD has won the first round of the battle, we will be able to point to a likely winner by the end of next year.

Article Coverage:
HD DVD gets early lead over Blu-ray in online discussions
More than 1.5 million HD DVDs shipped
Will Blu-ray sink the PlayStation 3?
Samsung to launch Blu-ray player on 25 June
First reviews positive for Toshiba HD DVD as supplies sell out fast