A group of influential audio visual early adopters is saying enough to the looming format wars between HD-DVD and Blu-ray. They say bringing both formats to market will force enthusiasts to invest in two expensive players instead of one and will cause considerable confusion in the minds of consumers. Further, the proposed “draconian” copy protection schemes used in either format are simply unacceptable as they stand and could lead to consumer apathy or down right rejection in the market.
Senior Analyst and Editor
of Projection Monthly &
The High-Definition Disc Consumer Advocacy Alliance has outlined five top concerns related to the new HD Disc proposal (to be enacted in both formats), putting that group on a collision course with Hollywood, the disc makers and CE manufacturers. This may spell trouble for the content producers and manufacturers as the alliance consists of editors and reviewers of CE technology, early adopters and other key market influencers (bloggers and the like) that can help sway adoption and consumer acceptance of specific technologies.
The group goes so far as to inform Hollywood et al. that without addressing these concerns, the group will “express our regrets that in all good conscience, we cannot recommend buying any format until these issues are resolved.” It went on to say, “We will cover the introduction of the hardware and software and report what we expect to be wonderful improvements in both video and audio qualities. But with each such article or review, we will continue to remind our readers that there are deficiencies that must be corrected.”
So beyond a format war, what are the group’s major concerns? Punishing the innocent for the sins of the guilty is number one on the web site. In short-the group is concerned about the planned restriction of the analog component-video output resolution to 480p (or DVD progressive standard). They report that the 6.6M large-format display owners who don’t have a DVI or HDMI port on their displays will not be able to watch HD optical discs. Today, Hollywood’s only answer is to throw away the $16.5B collective investment of these early adopters and opinion-makers, and force them to upgrade to a display with HDMI.
The studio’s power to revoke the HD disc encryption key makes number two on the list of top concerns. If a specific film (that ships with an encryption key) is compromised, the most current list of revoked keys (which is included on the latest discs that users purchase) is used to instruct the player to make your legal copy of the film unplayable. But wait, it gets better (err, worse). Not only can the HD disc be rendered useless, the CE hardware key can also be revoked. If firmware for a specific player-say a Toshiba HD-DVD or Pioneer Blu-ray is hacked and this is discovered, then every unit of that model in the market can end up on the revoked-key list, disabling your $500 or $1000 player and turning it into an expensive boat anchor with pretty lights.
We need to point out that these claims are being made by the Alliance and represent a worse case scenario. We find it hard to believe that any hardware maker would want such a situation to develop, however.
Suffice it to say that these issues are destined for heated public debate. What this group is trying to do is get the discussion going now, before hard cash is on the line, and to adjust these unacceptable “features” of our next-generation HD optical disc devices.
If Hollywood pushes its agenda too far on the US consumer, a backlash of Biblical proportions - to borrow a line from Ghostbusters - may follow. Haven’t these guys learned anything from the Betamax days?
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