Industry experts believe that HP's recent insistence on changes to the Blu-ray specification will provide a key boost for Sony's technology in its battle against Toshiba's HD-DVD system by removing Microsoft's and Intel's objections to Blu-ray.
The boost for Blu-ray came last week when HP announced its support for two new technologies (Mandatory Managed Copy and iHD) and requested that the Blu-ray Disc Association include these as part of the Blu-ray specification.
"This is the latest twist in the battle between the two camps vying to control the format for the next generation of optical media," a research report written by Gartner analysts Van Baker, Laura Behrens and Mike McGuire stated.
"If HP's proposed changes are approved, the Blu-ray format should emerge as the clear winner."
Gartner believes that Blu-ray has the edge because its supporters, led by Sony, include large PC original equipment manufacturers, including HP, Dell and Apple, as well as content providers, including Disney, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and 20th Century Fox.
The analyst firm pointed out that, although the Toshiba-led HD-DVD camp has lined up other content providers, including Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios, Warner Bros and New Line Cinema, two of them (Paramount and Warner Bros) have announced that they will release both HD-DVD and Blu-ray content.
Other providers are rumoured to be planning similar moves. NBC Universal, Gartner noted, is the most important one solely in the HD-DVD camp.
Gartner's report observed that just days after Paramount's recent dual-format announcement, Microsoft and Intel appeared to be endorsing the HD-DVD format. But the analyst goes on to state that HP's move "potentially reverses that stance".
This likely about turn is attributed to the fact that the major sticking point for Microsoft and Intel with Blu-ray was Mandatory Managed Copy, which allows consumers to make one protected digital copy of an original optical disk.
"Both technical specifications include this capability, but the Blu-ray consortium has not officially implemented it because of resistance from content providers," said Gartner.
"HP has now formally petitioned the Blu-ray consortium to implement the Managed Copy and iHD interactive capabilities already present in the HD-DVD specification.
"If HP's efforts are successful, the major incentive for Microsoft and Intel to endorse HD-DVD will be eliminated. Gartner believes the only potential way for the HD-DVD camp to remain viable would be to reduce royalties, and even that might not make a difference."
According to Gartner, HP's move has the potential to end the format war before it seriously slows the introduction of next-generation DVD.
The analyst group advises content owners, consumer electronics companies and those that supply them to prepare to move quickly to Blu-ray if the consortium adopts the positions on Managed Copy and iHD suggested by HP.
"It appears that Blu-ray will emerge the winner," Gartner said.
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