Saturday, December 8, 2007

Microsoft Accused of Eventual Blu-Ray, HD DVD Formats Fiasco

Both Blu-ray disc (BD) and HD DVD have been available for a little less than two years now, but neither of them have become truly popular on the market. Perhaps, the reason is that high-def movies are sold for $28 instead of $15, the price of typical DVD, or because the players retail for $200, $400 or even more, but not for less than $100, like DVD. But Michael Bay, a famous director, says that the root of all problems is Microsoft Corp. and its support of HD DVD.

Michael Bay, the director of popular movie “Transformers” who criticized Paramount Pictures for turning HD DVD exclusive, accused Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest developer of software and one of the backers of HD DVD format, of supporting HD DVD in order to make both high-definition formats – Blu-ray and HD DVD – to fail eventually. In addition, Mr. Bay accused Microsoft of bribing studios hundreds of millions of dollars so that they would support HD DVD instead of Blu-ray.

“What you don’t understand is corporate politics. Microsoft wants both formats to fail so they can be heroes and make the world move to digital downloads. That is the dirty secret no one is talking about. That is why Microsoft is handing out $100 million dollar checks to studios just embrace the HD DVD and not the leading, and superior Blu-ray. They want confusion in the market until they perfect the digital downloads,” said Mr. Bay in “Ask Michael Bay” forum at Shoot for the Edit web-site.

Microsoft currently sells and lends movies in standard and high-definition via its Xbox Live service; just like Apple, which sells movies via its iTunes store, the most popular Internet music store, and supports Blu-ray format. Microsoft’s chairman Bill Gates did say that BD and HD DVD are the last physical formats in future removable media will be substituted by streamed content as well as delivery of the content via the Internet.

“Understand that this is the last physical format there will ever be. Everything's going to be streamed directly or on a hard disk. So, in this way, it's even unclear how much this one counts,” Mr. Gates said in an interview almost two years ago. In the same interview the co-founder of Microsoft called Blu-ray copyright protection technologies as “anti-consumer”.

Earlier this year Paramount Pictures, a part of Viacom media company and a leading Hollywood studio, announced that it would not release new movies on Blu-ray discs (BDs) going forward, concentrating on exclusive support of HD DVD. Nevertheless, movies directed by Steven Spielberg will still be available on both types of new-generation DVDs, therefore, will be available for wider audience. Michael Bay’s transformers are currently only available on HD DVD.

Blu-ray and HD DVD formats compete for replacing the DVD standard. HD DVD discs can store up to 15GB on a single layer and up to 30GB on two layers. Its competitor, Blu-ray, can store up to 25GB per single layer and up to 50GB on two layers, but Blu-ray discs are more expensive to produce. The HD DVD is pushed aggressively by Toshiba, NEC, Intel and Microsoft, as well as being standardized at the DVD Forum, which represents over 230 consumer electronics, information technology, and content companies worldwide. Blu-ray is backed by Sony and Panasonic, which are among the world’s largest makers of electronics. Among Hollywood studios HD DVD is supported by New Line Cinema, Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Studios, whereas New Line Cinema, Sony Pictures, Walt Disney, Warner Bros. and Twentieth Century Fox endorse Blu-ray.

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