In just a few hours time, Sony Pictures will point to the future by releasing the new Adam Sandler movie, Click, in 50Gb Blu-ray format. To put that in a little context, it means that the one disc will feature the high-definition movie, plus uncompressed Pulse Code Modulation audio, and all the bonus materials in high def as well. Which in this case means audio commentary aplenty, numerous deleted scenes, short features and even a director’s cut. You will have to wait a few weeks for the much vaunted Blu-Wizard playlist feature though, which is a shame as this promises to enable the viewer to organize exactly how they want to watch these special features.
Of course, you will need a Blu-ray player to enjoy all this, and there lies the rub: hardly anyone has the hardware. Indeed, I understand that Warner have seriously cut back on their disc sale projections for both Blu-ray and HD DVD for just this reason. With only a very small handful of HD players in the market, a couple of Toshiba HD DVD products and a couple of Blu-ray machines from Samsung and Panasonic, that market is tiny. Expect that to change in the run up to Christmas, with Sony, Philips and Pioneer all expected to have Blu-ray players on the market in time for the gadget loving seasonal rush. Analysts are predicting that by the start of next year there will be no less than 1.7 million high definition devices in consumer households, including dedicated players, computers and games consoles.
Unfortunately, as history would suggest, there isn’t really room for two competing formats, two totally incompatible formats. We’ve been here before a couple of decades ago, and back then it was Sony which was the loser with the Betamax format. Whether history repeats itself remains to be seen, but the battle should be even more fiercely fought as both technologies are a lot closer in many ways than Betamax and VHS ever were. Both make use of blue lasers for data reading and writing, the shorter wavelength than the CD/DVD red laser enabling a more dense packing of data which equates to bigger storage capacity. And it is here that Blu-ray wins out with a 50Gb maximum compared to just 30Gb for HD DVD, so maybe Sony has the all important upper hand this time around?