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HP goes HD DVD

Blu-ray no longer the 'superior format'

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HP has formally embraced HD DVD, the next-generation optical disc format it has been opposing for the past few years.

The PC maker will no longer support Blu-ray Disc exclusively, the company said on Friday. It will also join the HD DVD Promotion Group, the Toshiba-led industry consortium of HD DVD backers.

Supporting both formats probably makes sense in the short term, while the two disc types face up and battle it out for the hearts and minds not only of consumers, but also computer users looking for next-generation, high-capacity storage media.

That said, HP's move seems driven more by pique than pragmatism. It asked the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA), of which it's just one of over 70 member companies, to add two features, Mandatory Managed Copy and iHD support, to the format. While MMC is now part of the specification - it allows a disc's content to be duplicated temporarily to, for example, stream it across a home network to a second TV - iHD isn't.

iHD is Microsoft's HD-oriented interactivity sub-system, and will ship with Windows Vista. The BDA has already chosen Java as the BD format's interactivity foundation, and has said that while it will consider including iHD in a future iteration of the specification, it's not going to delay BD's debut to shoehorn it in.

Sorry, HP effectively said, that's just not good enough, and we'll support HD DVD if you don't do what we want. So there.

And now it has. Both Microsoft and Intel have thrown their weight behind HD DVD, and we can't help wondering if that hasn't swayed HP into edging away from the Sony-led BD camp. Ironically, HP said only three months ago that BD had the support of the "vast majority" of computer industry, including Dell and Apple, before going on to say how clearly superior BD is to HD DVD.

No longer, it seems. Compare and contrast:

“[iHD] integration will reduce development costs and provide a more affordable solution for consumers,” HP said in a statement issued Friday. “In addition, HD-DVD provides a rich, cost-competitive solution for the consumer and is easier to manufacture."

And this, while rebutting "erroneous" claims from Microsoft:

"From a PC end-user perspective, Blu-ray is a superior format. It offers 67-150 per cent more storage capacity, higher transfer rates, slimline notebook compatibility, broadband connectivity and a proven interactive layer with BD-Java," said Maureen Weber, general manager of HP's Personal Storage Business, in September... ®

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