by Anton Shilov
07/20/2009 | 04:35 AM
After Toshiba Corp., the developer of the HD DVD format, releases its Blu-ray disc player by the end of the year, Microsoft Corp. will have to follow and launch Blu-ray add-on for its Xbox 360 game console. The support of Blu-ray disc (BD) by Toshiba means that the format is finally becoming a de-facto standard for high-definition home video. Toshiba is the last major consumer electronics maker to support BD.
Microsoft has publicly stated that high-definition video downloads and streaming is the future of video delivering to homes. However, it also had HD DVD add-on for Xbox 360, hence, the company admits that physical media is still popular. Moreover, with all the consumer electronics making BD players, Microsoft also needs to provide such an option to its consumer electronics video-game platform: it is clear that there will be much higher demand towards Blu-ray hardware in the coming years.
In fact, Blu-ray Xbox 360 add-on will hardly become something completely extraordinary for Microsoft. Even when Microsoft released HD DVD add-on for Xbox 360 it implied that it could create a similar player supporting Blu-ray. Moreover, a year ago industry rumours emerged that Microsoft did have an add-on BD drive for Xbox 360 in the roadmap (Microsoft later denied the information). Windows 7 operating systems also supports burning of Blu-ray discs and recognize their file structure. Finally, in a recent TV advertisement Microsoft said that Blu-ray support is one of the advantages that certain Windows-based computers have over Apple Macintosh systems.
Earlier both Toshiba and Microsoft cited large license fees for BD technology. But earlier this year Panasonic, Philips and Sony, who own the majority patents for Blu-ray disc (BD) technology, started to work with other Blu-ray patent holders to establish a one-stop-shop license for BD products in a bid to lower the price of players and recorders. The fees for the new product licenses are $9.50 for a Blu-ray disc player (down from $30) and $14.00 for a BD recorder. The per disc license fees for Blu-ray disc will be $0.11 for a read only disc, $0.12 for a recordable disc and $0.15 for a rewritable disc.
The main reason why Microsoft is unenthusiastic regarding Blu-ray is mandatory support of BD-Java interactive technology and Sony’s reluctance to adopt competing tech called HDi that was developed by Microsoft. Even though Microsoft managed to push its VC-1 codec onto both Blu-ray and HD DVD markets, the company’s negative attitude towards Java prevented it from supporting the former standard in general. As a result, the company used to sell external HD DVD drive for Xbox 360.
Neither Microsoft nor Toshiba has yet publicly announced support for Blu-ray. However, if Toshiba jumps on the bandwagon of the format, it is more than likely that Microsoft will follow. At the end, it is about giving its clients options to choose from: some people will be satisfied with 1280x720 (720p) resolution movies available from Xbox Live services, but others will want to watch movies in higher quality with 1920x1080 (1080p) resolution. In fact, Microsoft will not be able to omit BD support on its next-generation video game console since next-gen games will require a lot more space on the media and it will hardly be possible to download all titles from the Internet and then keep them on consoles’ hard drives.