[I've posted this as a comment on a few HD DVD vs. Blu-ray blog posts elsewhere, so I thought I'd put it up here as well.]
An HD format war is simply the height of stupidity, given the nice example of how quickly DVD was adopted by… everybody.
This happened for a few reasons, none of which are being replicated by the HD formats/players:
1) One alternative with no difficult competing choices.
2) Fit into existing home theater setups easily.
3) Clear, obvious quality advantages, even if you set it up incorrectly.
4) Significant convenience advantages – pause with no quality loss (anyone here remember VHS tracking?!), random access, extra features, multiple languages, etc…
5) More convenient and durable physical medium.
So – let’s look at what HD formats offer over DVD in these areas:
1) Multiple competing incompatible choices. Not just between HD DVD and Blu-ray, but also between different HD formats. 720p/1080i vs. 1080p, HDMI/HDCP vs. component. People aren’t adopting HD formats because they’re confusing.
2) Does not fit into existing home theater setups easily. If you had a DVD home theater, chances are you’re replacing most, if not all of your components to get to HD – you need a new TV/projector, you probably need some new switches, you need all new cabling, and you need at least three new players to do it right (HD DVD, Blu-ray, and an upscaling DVD player so your old DVDs look good). Not to mention a new programmable remote to control the now 7 or more components in your new setup (receiver, projector/tv, 3 players, HDMI switch, audio/component switch).
3) Clear, obvious quality advantages, but only if properly tuned and all of them work properly together. I can easily tell the difference between even HD movies and upscaled DVD movies. Upscaled DVD movies look fantastic, but HD movies really pop off the screen. But if things aren’t properly configured or you’re using the wrong cabling, these advantages disappear.
4) No significant convenience advantages, with some disadvantages. Pretty much the same extras, but most discs now won’t let you resume playback from the same place if you press stop in the middle, and they make you watch the warnings and splash screens again.
5) Indistinguishable physical medium. Maybe the Blu-ray coating helps, but we’ll see about that.
I’ve gone the HD route, because I really care about very high video quality, and I love tinkering with this stuff. Most people don’t, and find it incredibly confusing and expensive.
Is it really any wonder that people are holding off?
The HD format war is already lost, by existing at all, and every day that both formats are available for sale just makes things worse. The only good way out of it is to erase the distinction between the two formats – dual format players that reach the killer price point and aren’t filled with bugs.