Monday, October 03, 2005

Format wars

"The nice thing about standards is, there are so many to choose from" – anonymous

So Paramount is the latest entry into the future of DVD "war", backing the Blu-ray format backed by a Sony led group and featuring Disney among others. HD DVD, backed by Toshiba and supported by Universal Studios, Microsoft, Intel, Warner Bros and more.

What is causing this war: "what is expected to be a multi-billion-dollar market for next-generation DVD players, PC drives and optical discs." Who will lose the war: the consumer.

This "war" parallels another format "war" over satellite radio. There are two competitors in this "war", XM and Sirius. Each requires a receiver and subscription, both offering different and unique content that you cannot get on the other.

What is causing this war: control over the market of paid audio services. Who will lose the war: the consumer and one or more of the vendors.

This was supposed to happen in the dish versus cable realm and to some extent it has. Various cable and dish services were going to offer their own exclusive packages but neither had the leverage to push out the common programming. That left customized sports and movie packages and price as the only bargaining points when looking at one or the other.

There are past "wars" that some of you may remember.

Anybody who has anything to do with web development will certainly remember the browser "war" initially between Netscape and Microsoft now seeming starting again between Microsoft and Firefox. Who lost that war? Netscape did. One might say the web developers did having to support different formats and markup code, but that created a good job market for a while. Effects of that "war" linger even today; just mention CSS boxes to web designers.

There was the little known "war" between DAT, DAC and ADAT. Nobody really won that war as DAT and ADAT live only in digital recording studios where computers aren’t prevalent. I forget who made DAC, I saw one at Sun TV but that was about it.

Probably the oldest "war" relevant to the others here was VHS vs. beta. VHS won that "war", at the height of it’s popularity even the poorest of people who could barely afford food each had two or three of them per household.

Can "AM" vs. "FM" be considered a war? Since both are still widely available I would probably say no.

There are probably other current "wars" that I’m forgetting. Or perhaps I don’t care enough about them to list them here; like compact flash vs. memory sticks vs. SD vs. (insert format the 7-in-1 readers read).

I think the point I am trying to make is when is all this going to backlash? When are we as consumers going to stop, look at the potential cost of this new technology, add it to the current cost of media services and technology, look at the new total and with eyeballs bulging yell out "sweet merciful Jesus" then pound a fist on (through) the table? How much of your monthly income is going (should go) to media?

Do I really need a new DVD format? I really don’t want to be a loser again.

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