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DVD FUTURES

Monday, March 14

Welcome to the next battle in the Format Wars. With the looming emergence of high-definition television (get ready; it's a freight train heading for your living room), it's time to play the format shuffle. CDs? Gone. DVD? Yesterday's news, tomorrow's eight-track. The future is HD, so the next step is a recordable format that can handle its demands. In one corner is Blu-Ray Disc; in the other HD-DVD. If the past offers clues, one will dominate, and the other will join Betamax in the land of failed contenders. Richard Doherty of the Blu-Ray Disc Association – about 100 industry leaders including Dell, Sony, Apple, Panasonic, and Samsung – believes his format will survive. Why? Size matters. Not only is the coalition impressive, but Blu-Ray Discs can hold up to 50 gigabytes, while HD-DVDs can handle 30 gigabytes. So, if it's superior, why the format war? The ownership of patents for the formats, and the potential profits that implies, is part of it. "There's a perception that HD-DVD may be easier to duplicate," Doherty admits. Cheaper, too. But what should have you, the consumer, salivating, is the extras. Don't fret. High-definition players/recorders (expect them in 2006) will play your CDs and DVDS. But their huge capacities will allow space for more options when you purchase movies, says Zane Vella of MX Media. Chief among them is the ability to choose to easily switch between four different angles – the multiangle feature now seldom used on DVDs, except in the adult-film market.

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