It hangs over 2005 like a flashback to the late 70s, threatening to ruin a long-lasting peace: A video format war. True, there have been skirmishes since MiniDV and DVDs were introduced -- remember the old meaning of Divx? But not since VHS vs. Beta has the "main" format been so up for grabs. One big difference though, this time around, is the possibility of a multi-format HD disc drive.
For all the sizzle of the fast-paced developments in digital video, there remains something slow and plodding about this unique field of electronics. It's like a board game where you move two steps forward and one step back: The rapid pace of technological progress is constantly being throttled by a unique mix of government regulation, industry conflicts, and a zealous guarding of the Hollywood cash cow (see Digital Cinema Seeks Protection From Pirates).
Anyone in the U.S. who thinks the rollout of High Definition television here is slow should take a look at what's going on in Europe (or what's not going on). See Europe: Ready for HD?, this week's featured article.
You may blame governments, in part, for the slow progress in HD, but then also take a look at what's happened this week in the private sector with high definition DVD -- or, more accurately, what hasn't happened. The Sony-Toshiba-Matsushita negotiations to unify a single high definition DVD format have reportedly broken down (see Next-gen DVD talks collapse.)
Already, recordable DVD in standard definition has been hampered by a format war, and now it looks like that's a small skirmish compared with things to come. Could this truly degenerate into a pre-recorded video format war, the likes of which haven't been seen since the classic 1970s/80s-era battle between VHS and Betamax?
One big difference this time around is the possibility of a multi-format HD disc drive. It will cost more, but it is possible -- just look at today's DVD +RW/-RW disc drives. With VHS and Beta, such a combo-unit was impractical.
What's your opinion? Will there be a format war, and how hard would building a combo-drive be? Reply in our Video/Imaging DesignLine Forums, Blue Ray / HD DVD format war.