Irony Alert: HD DVD Eases the Pain of Its Death for Owners

HD DVD vs. Blu-rayBack in November, I asked for help in deciding between HD DVD and Blu-ray. I ended up choosing HD DVD via an amazing Amazon deal: HD DVD player and 10 HD DVDs for $174. (That deal is now over, but now there’s an even better deal: HD DVD player and 7 movies for only $132.)

But it wasn’t just the price being nearly half of any Blu-ray equivalent (check out Amazon’s Blu-ray page, where every player is well above $300 with not nearly as many included movies), it was other little things. For instance, HD DVD is region free. This means that any movies bought in Europe or the U.S. can work on any player bought anywhere as well. The same isn’t true for Blu-ray.

And HD DVD technology allows for backwards compatibility with regular DVD players. Most of the HD DVD movies I own are dual format discs. They work on my HD DVD player but also work as regular DVDs in any DVD player (including Blu-ray players). But Blu-ray technology has no backwards compatibility. Another aspect of HD DVD that was superior: all players are required to have network support which makes updates more convenient and allows for some interesting features. Blu-ray, on the other hand, has plenty of players that don’t have network support.

And while the format wars have been raging on, I’ve been using Netflix which automatically sends me any available movies in my queue in HD DVD format. This has allowed me to enjoy plenty of high definition content over the past couple months (and will continue for some time until HD DVD officially dies).

So the less expensive, region free, feature-rich, backwards compatible format was beaten by the more expensive, restricted format. And let’s not forget that no matter how many Playstation 3 consoles Sony will sell (which include Blu-ray), a true DVD replacement will need stand-alone players. This is where Blu-ray has failed big time so far.

Plenty of people are speculating that even if Blu-ray has won the battle against HD DVD, its death isn’t too far off. News is coming out every day of more options that allow for digital content to be delivered straight to the TV with no separate disc player required. This war isn’t over yet. And if Blu-ray dies in the next battle, its expensive, restricted, non-compatible format will die with it.

As it stands, I appreciate what the HD DVD group has done to make its death less of a pain for its users. If it were Blu-ray dying, the same couldn’t be said.

*Update* The Financial Times claims Paramount will drop HD DVD via a clause in its contract that allows the company to switch sides if Warner chooses Blu-ray (which is exactly what Warner did). But now Paramount seems to be denying any such intentions and says it will stick with HD DVD.