Articles: Storage

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Finally, we’ve got the first of Blu-ray optical drives in our labs. Frankly speaking, we could have performed such tests earlier but we didn’t want to. Why? Most of our readers should still remember the war between the DVD+ and DVD- standards or rather between the developers of those standards. The outcome of the war had an important practical implication. The winning group of companies rakes in maximum profit thanks to larger production volumes and licensing fees from third parties.

As you remember, all attempts to come to an agreement, i.e. to a single standard, were fruitless. The manufacturers produced drives with support for only one format at first and users had to buy either DVD+R/RW or DVD-R/RW drives, which was very inconvenient. However, even when the companies kept adhering strictly to their clan in producing optical drives, there were devices that supported, even though unofficially, media of the antagonistic format. Any manufacturer is interested in increasing its sales volume by offering “universal” products, after all. We have eventually come to the present situation when every modern optical drive supports both “plus” and “minus” formats. Some of them support DVD-RAM, too.

The storage capacity of DVD discs seems to be insufficient now as the approaching era of high-definition digital television (and video) calls for storage media with much larger capacities. The maximum “full” resolution in the new standard is 1920x1080 pixels as opposed to 720x576 (PAL) of the classic DVD. Thus, a DVD disc cannot store a movie recorded according to the High Edition specification. Another reason behind the desire of the movie industry to transition to the new format is to get a mean to distribute their products on copy-protected media. The main copy protection method available on the DVD, Content Scrambling System, proved to be easy to hack and was easily avoided by means of the notorious DeCSS program since it was based on a static encryption system (the entire movie uses the same key).

So, there is indeed a need for large-capacity media. Today, two incompatible disc standards exist: Blu-ray and HD DVD. The former is created by a large group of companies including Apple, Dell, Hewlett Packard, Hitachi, LG Electronics, Mitsubishi, Panasonic (Matsushita Electric), Pioneer, Royal Philips Electronics, Samsung, Sharp Corporation, Sony, TDK, Thomson, Twentieth Century Fox, Walt Disney Pictures and Television, Warner Bros, and others. These form the Blu-ray Disc Association that numbers a total of over 180 members. The other camp, which supports HD DVD, has fewer members, including Toshiba, NEC, Memory-Tech, Microsoft, Intel, Sanyo, and HP. This camp is supported the DVD Forum as well. Some companies have entered both camps, not making a definite choice. The same thing happened to the Hollywood companies that didn’t make a decision in favor of one of the standards.

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