Many people are now making the “VHS beats BetaMax” comparison now that Blu-ray wins the high definition battle as HD DVD says “no mas.” But that’s the wrong comparison to make, because in this case, the better technical format won. Back in the 1980s, BetaMax was superior to VHS, but lost because of higher cost and mistakes by Sony, the primary BetaMax proponent.
This time Sony finds themselves on the winning side as Toshiba, the primary HD DVD proponent, gives up the fight. An excellent analysis by Robin Harris called HD DVD post-mortem: why did Toshiba fail? over at ZDNet does a great job summing up the battle in one short column.
What did HD DVD have going for it? The ability for manufacturers to make the high def DVDs with regular DVD equipment. Great for them, but not as great for users. HD DVD stores 15GBs per disk, while Blu-ray stores 25GBs per disk. More storage means better video and room for more extras.
Interestingly, Harris’ post-mortem attributes to Toshiba the same types of mistakes I remember Sony making with BetaMax back in the day. Guess Sony learned their lesson, and Toshiba learned their lesson the hard way this year.
This doesn’t mean much to many people yet, however. Only about one percent of DVD players sold last year were high definition. People waited for the dust to settle, and now it has. At least Sony and the movie studios hope that’s why consumers have been waiting to jump on the High Def train.