Though Microsoft says it’s not taking sides in the impending DVD format war, the announcement that the software giant is joining up with Toshiba to develop high-definition DVD players using a special version of Windows seems contrary to that claim.
The announcement came yesterday from Tokyo while Microsoft CEO Bill Gates was in town to seal the deal. Gates also told reporters in Tokyo that Microsoft would consider using Toshiba-favored HD DVD in an updated version of the hotly anticipated Xbox 360.
HD DVD format is rivaled by Blu-Ray-Disc technology currently utilized by Sony in their upcoming PlayStation3 and supported by another major rival Apple Computers.
The competing formats are reminiscent of Betamax vs. VHS a quarter century ago. Though supporters of the respective formats have been trying to agree on a common format, they have yet to do so.
Blu-Ray DVD’s have higher storage capacity, offering up to 50 gigabytes of storage, nearly double that of the 30 gigabytes offered by HD DVD. However, supporters of HD DVD, mainly Toshiba and many motion picture distribution entities, argue that HD DVD is closer to existing DVD formats and therefore would be cheaper to produce the next generation of DVD’s.
Blu-Ray technology is backed by the largest of PC makers, Dell and Hewlett Packard. Its higher capacity also helps with shaper, cleaner image quality.
Microsoft’s alliance with Toshiba seems by its very nature to be an endorsement of one format, though Kevin Eagan, general manager of Microsoft’s OEM division says otherwise.
"Our partnership really doesn't represent Microsoft endorsing one format or another,” said Eagan.
But one has to wonder if this wouldn’t be a shrewd business move from Microsoft, just one they’d rather not talk about. By partnering with Toshiba, it adds its software giant weight to a format that goes against its two biggest competitors, Sony and Apple.