Blu-ray blu(e)s

4 06 2007

And to think, I only got a DVD player 3 years ago…

The other day I met a friend in town (who will remain anonymous for fear of him being embarrassed/offended/stalked by Internet perverts).  He was browsing a certain shop that sold electrical equipment (which will also remain anonymous since I have no intention of promoting them), trying in vain to find a Wii.  The shop did, however, have a PS3, and this friend was wondering what the point of it was.  I must say I found the graphics very impressive (although there are as yet no games to match some of the classics on other consoles, e.g. Halo 3), but there was nothing original about it.  Except for something called “Blu-ray”.  What was “Blu-ray”?  Nobody seemed to know, so we asked one of the staff about it.  He explained, “Blu-ray is a new kind of DVD experience.  It plays special DVDs – Blu-ray DVD players won’t play normal DVDs and normal DVD players won’t play Blu-ray DVDs.”  Riiight.  My friend asked if there was any advantage of buying Blu-ray DVDs over normal DVDs, and he talked of “special features” and “improved storage capabilities”.  I was just beginning to wonder whether we hadn’t accidentally asked a PS3 sales executive by mistake, when my friend remarked that he’d still rather buy a Wii.  At this point the shop guy was revealed to be a fanatical PS3 fan who told us about his passionate relationship with the first PlayStation (well, that’s what it sounded like) and listed all the reasons why there was nothing that an Xbox 360 or Nintendo Wii could do that the PS3 couldn’t do better.  At this point my friend showed that he was an equally obsessive Wii fan and began to list all the reasons he’d rather have one of them over the PS3 any day, much to both my and the sales bloke’s embarrassment.

Anyway, just now on – surprise, surprise – the BBC technology website, I came across an article on a recent Blu-ray related event.  It turns out that Sony and Toshiba are engaged in a “format war” over their rival DVD players, Blu-ray and HD DVD respectively.  Both are capable of storing larger quantities of data than regular DVDs and both are powered by blue laser beam technology.  Sony have surprised everyone by cutting the price of Blu-ray players by $100 to get ahead of the market, citing “growing demand for the next generation technology and falling production costs” as the reason for their action.

This is all very reminiscent of the debate over Betamax and VHS that occurred in the ’80s, with some studios backing one type of disc and some backing the other, while the public are stranded in the middle.  The BBC offered to answer people’s questions about the Blu-ray format, and you can see their answers here.  As for me, I’d rather keep my regular DVD player, thank you very much.


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