HD DVD goes interactive, Microsoft rallies support for format

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HD DVD goes interactive, Microsoft rallies support for format

Redmond (WA) – As we draw closer to the official launch of the Blu-ray format in late June, the HD DVD camp continues to build its case against Sony & Co. Warner Home Video (WHV) continues to increase the HD DVD movie portfolio – and just announced the first interactive title – while Microsoft uses the WinHEC conference to promote the format.

HD DVD had a less than impressive start. Few players were available in stores, with the next batch not expected to arrive for another week or so, and the choice of movie titles was a rather sobering experience for movie enthusiasts. And we are not even talking about the fact, that there was only the lower-end player for sale and less known circumstance that these $500 and soon to surface $800 device cannot even playback movies in 1080p, but only in the inferior 1080i resolution.

On the technical side it appears that HD DVD will be at a clear disadvantage to the more expensive, but 1080p capable Blu-ray players that are promised to go on sale in the last week of June. But it’s not always the technology that decides the fate of such a device and at least for now, HD DVD appears to be gaining steam on the content and marketing side.

WHV has been building its HD DVD portfolio consistently since the launch of the first player announced that The Perfect Storm, Firewall as combo HD DVD/DVD as well as the first HD DVD with “in-movie-experience,” Constantine, to its lineup on 6 June. This in-movie-experience, is the first step towards some interactivity, which for now is limited to accessing different types of “bonus” content, while the movie is running. Some time in the future, this feature may allow a connection to the Internet and the download of more videos, information and even games.

Constantine and The Perfect Storm will sell for $29; Firewall will be available at $40, WHV said. If WHV continues its pace and more publishers decide to join the parade, then there should be about at least three dozen HD DVD titles available at the time Blu-ray debuts.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft also used the opportunity of its Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) to take a shot at Blu-ray and rally developers behind the format. The company presented a number of hardware and software supporters that promised a commitment to the format. “Industry leaders [plan] to ramp up support for HD DVD playback in PCs and on PC hardware and software in 2006 and early 2007,” Microsoft said.

The company confirmed that Windows Vista will be shipped with the drivers, file system and other components necessary to support HD DVD playback. The company also gave a positive progress report on the state of third-party software players, and announced a new initiative designed to help ISVs implement VC-1 and iHD and improve HD DVD playback.