As if the format war between the HD DVD and the Blu-ray high def DVD formats wasn’t heated enough, there will likely be another player coming into the ring in the immediate future. A virtually unheard of company called New Medium Enterprises is set release its own high def disc format which it calls HD VMD.
Unlike Blu-ray and HD DVD, HD VMD takes advantage of existing red laser technology to read the data off of the discs. This use of an already established technology makes the HD VMD technology much cheaper than HD DVD or Blu-ray. In fact, while HD DVD players are stuck around three hundred dollars a piece and Blu-ray players have only recently dropped below five hundred dollars, HD VMD players will probably cost about a hundred and fifty dollars when they first hit retail stores like Costco and Radio Shack. In addition to lower cost players, the discs themselves should cost less too. HD VMD discs are expected to cost significantly less than either of the two established formats (if you could call two formats that are in the middle of a bitter and protracted format war established) and slightly more than conventional DVD’s.
Before anyone gets too excited about being able to watch movies in high definition off of a disc, it should be pointed out that there are still very few titles available in the HD VMD format. In fact, there will only be about twenty titles that come from the United States and most of them will come from smaller independent studios- including one owned by Mel Gibson. In addition to those twenty American titles, there will also be a variety of foreign titles including Indian movies from Bollywood.
Of course, there is a considerable amount of skepticism about the possibility of a small start up company coming out of nowhere to take down the best efforts of two massive companies like Toshiba and Sony. This is especially difficult to believe when you consider the fact that Blu-ray and HD DVD are both backed by some pretty major motion picture studios, but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. After all, the ability to buy a player for half that of the nearest competitor and less than a third of the price of the other nearest competitor can be pretty attractive to consumers and the big companies ultimately have to give the consumers what they want. There will be a lot of economic pressure to release movie titles on HD VMD.
At this point the technical details of the HD VMD format still aren’t very clear, but there are a number of things that we can guess about this new format. First of all, since we know that HD VMD is based on the same red laser technology that conventional DVD’s and CD’s are based, we can guess that an HD VMD disc can’t store as much data as Blu-ray or HD DVD discs which are both based on blue violet laser technology. This is a reasonable guess because of the fact that a blue violet laser has a shorter wavelength and can therefore encode more information, more finely onto a disc than the longer wavelength of a red laser can. This might not actually be much of a problem when you look at the fact that a Blu-ray disc can store far more data than an HD DVD can, yet they can still both be used for HDTV movie storage.
Only time will tell how this challenge to the big HDTV DVD formats will play out, but it could be a case where more primitive technology vanquishes more advanced technology because of economics.