Thursday, March 13, 2008

Microsoft Downplays Blu-Ray Player for Xbox 360 Possibility

Microsoft Corp. cannot afford the luxury of staying away from the market of high-definition video, but this does not mean that it will embrace Blu-ray disc (BD) format right away.

Following the recent claims made by Sony Electronics executives regarding co-work with Microsoft on creation of Blu-ray disc add-on for Microsoft Xbox 360 game console, or even a version of the game system with BD drive inside, Microsoft said that no decision has been made so far.

“There are no plans to introduce Blu-ray. […] In response to Stan Glasgow’s statement that Blu-ray is a possibility for Xbox 360, we have made no such announcement. Games are what are driving consumers to purchase game consoles and we remain focused on providing the largest library of blockbuster games available,” a spokesperson for Microsoft Corp. is reported to have said according to Next Generation web-site.

Microsoft has never denied that it may introduce Blu-ray disc add-on for Xbox 360 and support BD with Windows operating system. Moreover, recently the head of the software giant admitted that supporting Blu-ray is important for Microsoft to a certain degree.

“We’ve already been working on, for example, in Windows, device driver support for Blu-ray drives and the like, and I think the world moves on. Toshiba has moved on. We’ve moved on, and we’ll support Blu-ray in ways that make sense,” said Steve Ballmer, chief executive officer of Microsoft, at Mix08 conference, reports Seattle Post-Intelligencer web-site.

It should be noted that Blu-ray device driver is not enough to fully support Blu-ray movie playback. Besides integrating a video player that supports H.264 and VC1 codecs into Windows operating system (OS), Microsoft also needs to support BD-Java, the technology that enables interactive features on BDs. Given that Microsoft does not currently support Java in any way and end-users have to download a special plug-in from Sun Microsystems’ web-site to enable it in Windows environment, it is not easy to believe that Microsoft starts to support BD-J just because of Blu-ray.

But the world’s largest maker of software may have a strong reason to support both Blu-ray and BD-J, if it does not convince Blu-ray disc Association (BDA) in using HDi technology instead of BD-J, going forward. For years Microsoft has been trying to push its Windows Media Center Edition into living rooms, but without much success. In case it turns out that Entertainment-oriented OS does not support high-definition video format, fewer end-users will use it, whereas more hardware manufacturers will focus on development own Linux-based operating systems for home-theater personal computers.

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