The whole HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray thing is so ridiculous. That we didn't learn from the VHS vs. BetaMax fiasco and are doing it again just kills me. Of course, some folks think the battle is more like the DVD-Audio vs. Super Audio CD (SACD) wars (skirmish?) where neither won.
Personally, I think HD-DVD will eventually win. Not because of technical superiority (it's not) or cheapness (it's cheaper so far to buy and produce) but because of one simple thing. The name. HD-DVD says what it means. Blu-Ray? Huh? People like simple Acronyms. Also, Sony is coming off as a little snooty in this whole thing.
Anyway, enough of that nonsense, here's what's up. My Christmas gift this year was an HD-DVD Player for the Xbox360. It's US$199, but it comes with an HD-DVD copy of King Kong as well as the larger-sized XBox 360 Remote Control, which is nice. The drive also is a USB Hub adding two USB ports to make up for the one in the back it takes away from your Xbox.
Here's the worst part about HD-DVD. Once you've seen a movie you love in HD-DVD, you'll be unable to tolerate a DVD. I did a test on my wife, on 37" LCD from 10 feet away, she immediately noticed the difference between the DVD version and the HD-DVD version, and she's not one who typically noticed these things. It's like getting new glasses - You're ruined without them.
Yes, the picture is amazing, and I'm only watching it in 720p. I'd need to get a Sharp Aquos 1080p TV to get any better. But the picture is just part of it, there are subtle things like being able to access the main DVD menu without stopping the playback. There's 7.1 lossless audio. There's picture in picture multiple-video stream extras. I've got Superman Returns, Batman Begins, Serenity and King Kong and they are truly excellent in every way.
One other cool thing. You can use the HD-DVD Player on both Windows XP and Windows Vista. XP requires drivers, Vista doesn't. WinDVD8 apparently plays HD-DVD movies, a Vista doesn't support HD-DVD out of the box.
Ah, one OTHER cool thing. Apparently more and more HD-DVDs (like Superman Returns) are "combo DVD/HD-DVDs" with DVD on one side and HD-DVD on the other. That is pretty slick and if I understand correctly, unique to HD-DVD. That would make me more likely to use HD-DVD if it's true.
Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.