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Tech success stories: Blu-Ray

Blu-ray discsFind out how the "DVD war" led to Blu-Ray discs being used for HD films.

When high-definition discs first went on sale in 2006, there were two options: HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. The two discs were very similar: they worked in the same way as CDs and DVDs, but were played using a blue laser. Because the blue light has a shorter wavelength than lasers used to read DVDs, more information can fit on a single disc. Blu-Ray discs could hold more data than HD-DVD, but they were also more expensive.

The "war" between the two began even before DVDs were on sale. The companies that designed the two discs had worked together on the DVD format, to avoid releasing two competing discs which would put off customers and cost both sides money. However, Sony and Phillips (the companies behind Blu-Ray) got less money from the deal, making a similar compromise harder the second time around.

In the end, it was the world of business that decided which disc came out on top. By 2008, film studios were abandoning HD-DVD and moving over to Blu-Ray. In February that year, Toshiba (the designers of the HD-DVD) announced that it would stop making HD-DVD players, and began to make Blu-Ray players instead.

The "DVD war" is just one of many "format wars" that have happened over the years. Some cause big problems: if you spent £500 on an HD-DVD player, you wouldn't be very happy when films stopped being available for it. Others are less difficult for users: for example, different digital cameras use different kinds of memory cards, but because you rarely need to buy a new one this isn't a big problem.

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I don't think Blu-ray is even in the same league as Google and iPhone. Just because it defeated HD-DVD and so won a format war doesn't automatically make it a success story. Far from it. The fact that Blu-rays still so often come in "Combi" packs with DVDs and digital copies is very telling. The problem is that, unlike Google, iPhone and the DVD, Blu-ray is not a revolutionary product. Combine that with its relatively high price, and there is just not enough incentive for people to adopt the technology.

Petar 24-3-11