The drive to replace DVD technology with newer discs boasting greater storage capacity has come down to two major competing formats, and the coming marketplace battle will be bad for companies and users, the head of a major US technology products retailer says.
"The damage the industry does to itself by not choosing a format is enormous," says Brad Anderson, vice chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of Best Buy, one of the largest US consumer electronics and appliances retail chains. "Two incompatible formats is as much a nightmare as you can make for consumers," he adds.
The competing technologies are Blu-ray, the high-definition video disc format backed by Sony and several other major vendors, against HD-DVD, which is backed by the DVD Forum and companies including Toshiba, NEC, Intel and Microsoft.
The difference in storage space is huge: regular DVDs can hold 4.7G bytes of music, movies and other data, while Blu-ray can carry 25G bytes of data and HD-DVD, 15G bytes. But despite some other advantages for each of the two new formats, the companies backing them have been unable to compromise on a single standard.
Now, both groups appear ready to let consumers decide the winner, just like the 1980s video cassette recorder fight between VHS versus Betamax.
Howard Stringer, chairman and CEO of Sony, says talks between the Blu-ray and HD-DVD camps broke down some time ago for a number of reasons, and that now the factions are at a point where it's difficult to step back from their positions.
"There's no question that a format war is not a good idea but I don't see what we can do about it except push on and convince everybody that a revolutionary high-definition disc (Blu-ray) is better than an evolutionary high-definition disc (HD-DVD)," he says.
"We'll weigh the consequences and costs versus convincing the customer that if you are actually going to change your DVD format you'd better change it to something that dazzles you rather than something that is an evolutionary improvement," he adds.