The New Format Wars: Forget About HD DVD & Blu-ray

HD DVD vs. Blu-rayOnce upon a time, earlier in the battle between HD DVD and Blu-ray, supporters of each side loved to point out the major tech company backing each format to strengthen their positions. It made sense, after all, how could HD DVD fail if Microsoft was behind it? And, of course, Blu-ray would win if Apple was there beside it.

But then, neither company will be affected much if both formats eventually fail. And that’s because, in the end, both Microsoft and Apple minimized their involvement with either format.

Of the two, Microsoft did the most by releasing an add-on HD DVD drive for the Xbox 360. And for a while, for owners of Xbox 360s at least, this was the most affordable way to get into the next generation of content. It was generally considered a good deal with its under $200 price tag.

But there always seemed to be rumors of Microsoft coming out with a new edition of the Xbox 360 with HD DVD built-in, though Microsoft tried to shut down these rumors multiple times. And now that stand-alone HD DVD players are in the $130 range, the Xbox 360 factor seems to matter very little. More importantly, while the format war had been raging on, Microsoft continued work on its offering of downloadable digital content via the Xbox Live Marketplace.

As for Blu-ray and Apple… Well, just this week we have Steve Jobs crowning Blu-ray the winner of the format wars. But he continued to explain that it doesn’t really matter because of the advent of HD downloads. Of course, he would say that the same day his company releases HD movie rentals via Apple TV.

But then, during the same week, we have news of high-speed Internet service providers wanting to charge consumers extra per month if they exceed a certain amount of Internet activity. Obviously, this could be very bad news for those thinking downloadable/streaming content is the next big thing.

And let’s also remember that not all HD content is created equally. It looks like HD via Apple TV / iTunes may not be that impressive due to a low bit-rate (an interesting tidbit of info that didn’t even make it into my previous article: Apple TV: Top 10 Reasons You Should Wait).

Whatever the case, both Microsoft and Apple seem to be moving toward downloadable/streaming content. But even if there is truth in the idea that the format wars don’t matter now, the irony is that they may matter more than ever:

Downloadable/streaming content comes in way more than just two formats, and they don’t all place nice together.