LAS VEGAS While Blu-ray Disc backers convene this week to refine technical specifications and organize a plant tour of Panasonic’s pilot replication line, a key proponent of Blu-Ray’s rival platform, HD DVD, is taking a post-CES siesta and thinking, “What, me worry?”
Hisashi Yamada, chief technology fellow at Toshiba's Digital Media Network Co., said in an interview he feels no urgency to convince supporters that HD DVD disks are ready for prime time.
“HD DVD is already here and real,” said Yamada, who also chairs the DVD Forum. “If Blu-ray disk are already being produced on the pilot line, with more than 80-percent yield rates as the Blu-ray camp claims why not just distribute their disks? There’s no need to organize a trip to the plant.”
The reason why the HD DVD camp has made no serious overtures to Blu-ray supporters to discuss a compromise to merge the competing formats is simple, at least in Yamada’s view: Blu-ray disks aren’t ready, and HD DVD disks are.
Yamada expressed no regrets over Toshiba’s commitment to HD DVD while speaking with EE Times last week at CES while waiting in a long shuttle bus line at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Yamada has participated twice over the last decade in major optical disk format battles, first with DVD and now with HD DVD.
Unlike DVD, however, Yamada acknowledged he doesn’t have the numbers on his side. The Blu-ray camp is led by Sony, Matsushita and Dell along with a majority of Hollywood studios and leading consumer electronics manufacturers. The underdog HD DVD group includes only Toshiba, NEC, Microsoft, Intel and three studios.
Addressing the Blu-ray backers, Yamada warned, “Don’t get too comfortable just because your industry group has more members and supporters.” He insists that the next-generation HD optical format war is far from settled.
Surely, having Microsoft and Intel on his side helps. But Yamada’s loyalty to HD DVD is about technology, not ego. Yamada designed chips at Toshiba. In the semiconductor world, IC development requires a chip designer to consider everything from the necessary number of gates and process steps to wafer size and yield.
"It is a hard science. You need to consider all the margins your chip requires,” said Yamada. In the seat-of-the pants consumer electronics world, basic design on disks often starts with brain storms on a whiteboard. "Their approach to the technology development is so different from that of the semiconductor world,” said Yamada, “it’s unbelievable.”