Douglas Crockford

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January 2008

Format War

There has been another development in the Format War. Last week Warner Bros loudly announced that it is switching from HD-DVD to Blu-Ray. So that gives Blu-Ray 5 studios, and HD-DVD 2 studios. Sony's friends are declaring that HD-DVD is dead. Toshiba is declaring that HD-DVD is not dead yet. "We've been declared dead before," said Jodi Sally, vice president of marketing for Toshiba.

The important thing here is that it isn't the studios that decide which, if either, format is the winner. Ultimately, it is the marketplace that decides. Ultimately, it is you, and your friends and neighbors, who decide.

So which format should you choose? My advice continues to be to buy neither until two things happen:

I recommend that you buy neither format until the DRM features are removed. In the meantime, DVD upconverted to HDTV looks really good. The players are cheap, the discs are cheap, and there are lots more discs to choose from.

OWN

HDTV has passed the inflection point. The media companies used to put up HD networks with reluctance because the costs were bigger and the revenues were not. But now the demand for HD is such that everything is going to HD, even stuff that maybe shouldn't go to HD.

Oprah is getting a new network. The Discovery Communications's Discovery Health Channel will be rebranded as OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. Oprah promises that OWN will not be crappy like her previous network, Oxygen. "That channel did not reflect my voice," she said. "Shortly after the deal, I took myself off the board."

OWN will be available in HD. But I'm thinking that Oprah in HD makes as much sense as porn in HD. It's just too much information. Do you know what I'm saying?

Suppose They Gave a Format War and No One Came

What is the successor to the popular Compact Disc? There are two leading contenders: DVDA and Super Audio CD. Both offer better quality than CD. Neither is significantly better than the other. Both come with DRM systems that infringe your Fair Use rights. So which format will win the format war?

None of the above. The winner is the internets. MP3 has lower quality than CD, but it moves easily over the wire and is easily stored and managed on PCs. The advances in networking and cheap storage have eliminated the need for a new disc format.

The HD format war may be similarly irrelevant.