Two kinds of lies in the format war- lies and damn lies.
Blu-ray has now got its own propaganda web site, and I wouldn't expect anything that appears on this site (or Toshiba's Look and Sound of Perfect website for that matter) to be remotely non-partisan. But this Blog recently posted at this site goes rather far beyond simple partisanship.
The call out at the top of this page screams "Universal's Kornblau Wants Format War To Continue." Wow. When he's not trying to screw consumers with a lousy format war, does he strangle kittens for fun too?
While there are several direct quotes in this article attributed to Universal's President regarding the format war, I did not read a single one that comes close to supporting the hyperbolic call out at the top of the page.
Kornblau is quoted as saying something that a number of non-partisan industry pundits have said many times, and is probably correct. That the format was has been good for consumers in the sense that prices have come down farther and faster than they would have otherwise. Which is not the same as being in favor of a format war for the sake of a format war.
I'll go farther than that- the format war has been good for quality. Take a look at the first batches of Blu-ray titles we saw last summer (Fifth Element was so bad Sony has fixed it for free!). It's entirely possible that we'd have been stuck with that kind of crap for a good while had HD DVD not set the bar higher in terms of picture and sound quality right out of the gate.
But where this Blog is far more disingenuous is in its discussion of interactivity. The Blog states that "with the notable exception of the "U-Control" interactive feature that Universal introduced on several titles last year, the studio hasn't exactly been blazing many trails of innovation with content that couldn't be delivered on Blu-ray Discs and even DVDs in many cases."
This is overtly dishonest on a number of levels. Not the least of which is a gross exaggeration of DVD's interactivity prowess. (C'mon man, you can't even view a chapter list on a DVD without stopping the movie!)
And while it's possible that PIP features like U-Control could be delivered on Blu-ray, and certainly will one day, the simple fact is that as of right now they aren't. And why is that, you ask? There isn't a single standalone Blu-ray Disc player on the market that can support even the simplest Picture-In Picture functionality, nor can they be updated because hardware is at issue. A secondary video decoder is required for PIP and not a single standalone Blu-ray player in the market is so equipped.
This is why Warner and others are putting PIP features similar to U-Control on their HD DVDs and not on their BDs. While it's possible, if not likely, that the PlayStation3 supports PIP features as it's already spec'd with a secondary video decoder, there is no guarantee. And certainly it's significant if, as is likely, the PS3 supports PIP as it is far and way the most prevalent HD player in the market for either format.
But that's still apparently not enough for the studios to start putting these features on their discs because they haven't done so thus far, even though Warner already has the material created and put to use on many of its HD DVD titles.
And Warner has good reason to be cautious. The attempts so far to push the BD-J interactivity envelope haven't been trouble free. Those ridiculous BD-Java games that are encoded on the Pirates of the Caribbean BDs throw current standalone players into fits. Don't believe me? Watch this video.
The video is obviously a worse case scenario, but in our own tests it's typical for standalone players to take two to three minutes just to boot to the menus on the Pirates discs, and if you actually engage the games it's common for them not to work and/or the player to lock up.
So, if you've invested in a more expensive standalone Blu-ray player, and Blu-ray Discs do come out with PIP features like U-Control, you're SOL. You'll allegedly be able to play the movie, but take a look at the YouTube video to see what kind of experience you might have while your player figures out how to navigate a disc with BD-J features your player doesn't support.
Blu-ray's inconvenient truth is this: standalone BD players introduced after October 31st of this year will be required to support Java profile 1.1, which supports PIP features. Players introduced before then do not. And guess what? Samsung (and probably other manufacturers) are popping out third-gen BD players for September and October that beat the deadline and thus will not offer support for PIP features.
As far as web connectivity goes, Hettrick says wait 'til BD Live comes along. I think we will be waiting- probably until at least the 4th-generation of BD players next year. Few Blu-ray standalone players even have Ethernet ports, but that's irrelevant anyway. BD Live requires the player to support Java Profile 2.0, which has different hardware requirements than previous Java implementations. Not a single Java Profile 2.0 Blu-ray player has been announced to date, and so far only Denon's BD players are announced as supporting Java 1.1.
Blu-ray has a great story to tell. But interactivity isn't part of that story yet, and Blu-ray honks just shouldn't go there in touting their format. And really, there are plenty of credible signs that Blu-ray is indeed winning the format war so far. So, why not show a little class and act like it?