Blu-ray Disc was again in the news this week. We had all waited with baited breath for the launch of Sony stand-alone BDP-S1 Blu-ray Disc player, but it didn't happen. They say that three times is charm, but for Sony I'm not so sure. The BDP-S1 has been delayed three times so far. And, it could be delayed again thanks to a competing division -- PlayStation. Sony's PS3, which is scheduled to launch in the U.S. on November 17th, will be in great demand as will its blue laser diodes. Sony has already cut it the size of its initial shipment to 400,000 units down from 1.0 million. There will be shortages, prices will soar on eBay, and the demand will be great. Sony will be playing catch-up for quite awhile, which doesn't bode well for its stand-alone player.
What does this mean for next-generation high-definition optical disc players? Good question. We had all but written off Toshiba's HD DVD optical disc system, but it now seems like the "little engine that could." At CEDIA, Toshiba had announced that sales for HD DVD players totaled more than 30,000 units. While that may be a drop in the bucket as compared to DVD player sales, you have to give Toshiba credit for delivering on their promise of a high-definition DVD product. And, by December, a 2nd generation HD DVD model will be available to that will output 1080p. The current models output 1080i signals, and based on a "hands-on" review of their HD-XA1 the displayed images look spectacular especially on "The Searchers" from Warner Home Video. And, with audio codecs built-into HD DVD players, HDMI v.1.3 is not really needed to enjoy them. Although, Toshiba's new HD-XA2 will include HDMI v.1.3. Cool!
Even though Samsung was the first company to launch a Blu-ray Disc player in July, it has been plagued with image problems with adjustments made to its Gennum VXP chipset. Image quality was clearly inferior to Toshiba's HD DVD. Supposedly, a "quick fix" is supposed to come this month, but so far it has not happened. This does not bode well for the Blu-ray camp. Reportedly, Panasonic is launching their player in Europe first. Why? So, with the champion (and founding member) of the Blu-ray camp out of the picture till December, where does that leave BD. Yes, Pioneer and Philips may also have players soon, but they haven't shipped yet either.
If PlayStation3 does launch on November 17th, it will include a BD player. However, it's a completely different demographic than folks that love to watch movies. These will be "hard-core" gamers. And, yes, they will probably look to purchase movies in BD, but maybe not right away. A basic remote is a piece of optional equipment. So, this leads me back to HD DVD and the "little engine that could."
I remember the original "Format Wars" years ago between VHS and Betamax (Sony). Betamax was the superior videotape format with better image quality, but it lost out in the marketplace. Will this happen to Sony again with Blu-ray? While BD may have more storage capacity than HD DVD, will it really matter if BD can't get out of the gate? I guess we will just have to "wait and see." Although, my money these days just may be on the "the little engine that could."