HD DVD backers allege Blu-ray 'playability, reliability issues'

Slams Fox's 'most secure format' claim too

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HD DVD supporters last week alleged Blu-ray Disc's chosen copy-protection scheme could introduce "playability and reliability issues for consumers".

They also slammed movie studio Twentieth Century Fox's claim that Blu-ray Disc is the most secure of the two next-generation optical disc formats as "surprising and misleading".

The comment follows Fox's announcement that its Fox Home Entertainment subsidiary will release content on BD. Fox joined the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) last October, but only now has its home video wing formally committed itself to the format.

Fox provided a list of some of the highlights of its film and TV libraries, the implication being titles such as Die Hard, Alien, Moulin Rouge, The Sound of Music, All About Eve, The Simpsons, 24, X-Files and Lost in Space will becoming to BD in due course, though Fox did not say so explicitly.

Nor did it say when they will appear, noting only that titles will be available when "Blu-ray hardware launches in North America, Japan, and Europe". At this stage, it's not clear when that will be.

Here's the contentious - for the HD DVD camp, at least - part: "Fox's commitment to publish on Blu-ray is a direct result of the organisation's recent adoption of copyright protection measures, including renewable security, that address the needs and concerns of the studio and the entire Hollywood community."

And: "Blu-ray also features the most advanced copy protection."

Rubbish, say HD DVD supporters. "The content protection system of HD DVD provides an equivalent level of security as the system advocated by Fox for Blu-ray," an HD DVD Promotion Group spokeswoman told The Register.

Unable to resist the opportunity to spread a little fear, uncertainty and doubt - an activity neither camp is averse to engaging in - she added: "We also believe the Blu-ray disc format and proposed copy protection system may result in playability and reliability issues for the consumer."

However, Fox maintains that BD offers the "most advanced... backward compatibility with the current DVD format - meaning Blu-ray players will play existing DVDs".

HD DVD is, at least, a standard, unlike BD. Sony, Fox, Apple, Dell, HP, Electronic Arts and plenty of other hope BD will become a de facto standard, much as DVD±RW has, but HD DVD, although arguably the lesser of the two new formats, is the brand successor to DVD, having won the backing of the DVD Forum.

Talks held in the Spring of this year to discuss combining the two formats unsurprisingly collapsed, with neither side willing to cede their choice of physical disc structure to the other. That leaves the two formats going head to head for consumer support. Both have significant numbers of major content providers on their side. HD DVD hardware and titles are likely to appear late this year, but the real battle won't be fought until 2006 - and that's when Sony will ship its BD stealth bomber, the PlayStation 3. ®

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