Fujitsu-Siemens latest to proclaim HD DVD / Blu-ray neutrality at CeBit

Posted by Scott M. Fulton, III

Hannover (Germany) - Following what appears to be a trend among all the players in the ongoing HD DVD / Blu-ray fracas, Fujitsu-Siemens became the latest company to proclaim format neutrality. The European PC manufacturer's controlling parent, Fujitsu Ltd., was already curiously a member of the HD DVD Promotions Group and the Blu-ray Disc Association. But until today, it wasn't clear which side, if either or if any, Fujitsu's joint PC operation with Siemens (a member of neither) would take. Now we know.

"We don't take a stand in that fight, and actually we're very sorry that fight is happening," Bjorn Sehrm, senior director of Fujitsu-Siemens' Digital Home division, told Reuters this morning. Sehrm did not give any indication that the company would be revoking its membership in either group, though his language clearly indicated that whatever work his company provided for either side, it would not be overtly promotional.

Sehrm went on to say that, from a standpoint of factory implementation, it would be easy for his company to produce players for both formats, implying that the technical differences between the two might be too trivial for it to focus solely upon one format at the abandonment of the other. But while he seemed to indicate that consumers would decide which formats will be best suited for them, Sehrm gave zero pointers as to how consumers could make that determination, which may leave many with the impression that consumers' perception of those differences could become as trivial as factory engineers' perceptions are now.

But later, he stated he believed there was "no business need...to be honest" for either high-def format, at least for now, stating its early adopters were likely to be primarily home cinema enthusiasts, who would be targeted by a different arm of Fujitsu anyway.

Fujitsu-Siemens' move comes in the wake of a stunning change of stance by former Blu-ray supporter LG Electronics, which publicly proclaimed its neutrality in the fracas one day prior to CeBit's opening.

Evidence of Sehrm's claims that the factory implementation differences may be trivial came today in a CeBit announcement from Atmel Corporation - a manufacturer of, essentially, chipsets for optical disc drives. Today, Atmel announced the immediate availability of what CE manufacturers call a "system-on-a-chip" (SoC) that provides the basic functionality set for literally any standard optical disc format a manufacturer may care to produce, from typical red laser models to the high-def, higher-frequency blue laser models, for both players and recorders. So a component manufacturer could purchase such SoCs for $8.00 per unit, in quantities of 100, and deploy them in both Blu-ray and HD DVD equipment, with the only differences being a few minor factory settings.

Faced with the discovery that the difference between formats, from a factory engineer's perspective, is equivalent to the flip of a switch, CE manufacturers and computer component makers may both be realizing that the only reasons remaining for them to be squarely on one side of the fence or the other, are political ones. And in the absence of a political headwind favoring either direction, Fujitsu-Siemens may just be the next in a growing list of companies eager to wage peace on their own terms.