Monday, September 11, 2006

"Better" Best Be Better

"not all of Ralph's examples are really format wars — many are just cases of a new and better technology taking over. There may be some resistance, but the benefits are obvious."
I'd like to respond to Ken's remarks. First off, all of my examples were of format wars – in some cases the new was backwards-compatible with the old, but more often it was an either/or choice.
Ken's second remark above contains the secret to winning a format war – the benefits have to be obvious.

I would add "to the average consumer." Advantages of a gramophone over a player piano: cheaper, more compact playback, wider selection of audio entertainment, less maintenance – obvious to the consumer. Advantages of DVD over VHS: cleaner picture, chapter access, no rewinding, more durable media, smaller packaging – obvious to the consumer.

While the current HD DVD/Blu-ray struggle has often been compared to the Betamax/VHS conflict, I think there's a fundamental difference. The advantage of having movies available on video tape was obvious – it was just a question of what kind of tape format was going to be used.

In the case of HD DVD/Blu-ray, the advantages aren't' so obvious. I'm not sure most consumers can actually see the incremental picture improvement of these hi-def formats over what they can currently get with their DVD players.

Even on an old TV with a cheap combo player, the differences between DVD and VHS are obvious. High-definition formats require a high quality display to see a perceptible difference. Folks abandoned their VHS players for DVD players because of a perceptible improvement in picture quality and convenience. The average consumer would be hard-pressed to see that same degree of change moving from DVD to either HD DVD or Blu-ray.

Until high-definition TVs becomes prevalent in American households, the HD DVD/Blu-ray conflict will remain a cold war.
- Ralph

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