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CEA/CNET Study Says Tech Enthusiasts Remain Skeptical About High Definition on Disc

Posted on Tuesday, October 31st, 2006 and updated on Tuesday, October 31st, 2006 5:09 PM

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Pop-technology web site CNET and the Consumer Electronics Association have published a study that takes the temperature of early adopters and how they feel about the high definition players that are currently available.

Covered by this study are the two competing high definition formats, HD DVD and Blu-ray. Both offer a high definition picture, higher quality sound, and the ability for studios to put interactive and enhanced content on the same size disc as a standard definition DVD. The two formats are incompatible with each other, which is why this is a war and not an embarrassment of high definition riches.

The press release they generated (the study is only available to CEA members) does not mention how many people were polled, or how they were chosen, but maybe that would have gotten in the way of getting picked up by as many media outlets as possible...

Taking the results at face value, they make the case that no one likes to make an investment that may not pay off. This issue encompasses all four of the primary concerns people have (which format will succeed?, will it be compatible?, is copy protection too severe?, and how much will it cost?). I would wager a guess that if there were not two competing and incompatible formats, all four of these issues would be resolved.

You can buy an HD DVD player for about $400, and a Blu-ray player can be had for $730 (one that has a crisp picture will run you a cool $1,000). Both amounts are plenty of money in this day and age of $29.99 DVD players at WalMart, but they are not out of line when compared to the initial release of the DVD format many years ago. The $400 Toshiba HD-A1 HD DVD player is also highly regarded by many enthusiasts as being an excellent up-converting SD DVD player (other SD upconverting units start at $100 but can go as high as $1,000 for high-end models).

I don't think people have a problem paying the money required to get into the HD game, so long as they don't feel as though they'll get burned for doing so. That's where the format war is hurting everyone involved. The powers-that-be back when DVD was being released realized that having two formats would make the conversion of the marketplace from VHS slow and painful. The DVD format has reached its current success largely as a result of that foresight. Unfortunately, no such wisdom could be found among those companies supporting the HD DVD and Blu-ray technologies.

People are buying more HDTV's than ever before, and this holiday season should see many more sets installed in homes. It could have been a no-brainer for people to pick up an HD player and a bunch of HD discs to go with that shiny new set, but this format war creates indecision and indecision prevents sales.

Who will win the war? No one knows for sure. But I'm placing my bets on HD DVD, and I backed that opinion up with my own purchase. (You'll be seeing reviews of HD DVD movies here soon.)

It has the same high picture quality (some say better PQ), the same sound quality, enhanced features (do a search for IME, HDi, and U-Control for more info), and the same prices (or less) for the movies as Blu-ray. Plus, the players are much cheaper. The biggest difficulty is the lack of complete studio involvement, ensuring that every movie released on HD will be in HD DVD, but neither format has complete studio involvement.

On top of all that, which name do you think is more descriptive of what you get, HD DVD or Blu-ray? People know HD and they get it right away. It doesn't require an explanation.

Which format is best for you? That's something only you and your wallet can decide.


Press Release

SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The overwhelming majority (81 percent) of tech enthusiasts remain skeptical about which next-generation DVD technology will be the market standard, according to a recent survey by CNET (Nasdaq:CNET) (www.cnet.com) and the Consumer Electronics Association. The study, CEA / CNET Tech First Panel: Next-Generation DVD, gained information about early technology adopters awareness of, and interest in, high-definition capable DVD players as manufacturers prepare to release several players that run on varying formats.

Although awareness of the new technology is high at 85 percent, a number of issues are contributing to early adopters’ desire to own the new high-definition players. These include:

  • The Format Wars – The overwhelming majority (81 percent) say they are unsure of which of the available technologies will be the market standard
  • Price – Nearly three-fourths (74 percent) are concerned about the cost of next-generation DVD players; 62 percent worry about the cost of next-generation DVD movies
  • Compatibility – More than half (55 percent) wonder if the next-generation DVD players will be compatible with current CE products and whether they’re able to play standard DVD movies (54 percent)
  • Copyright Protection – Almost half (48 percent) are concerned about restrictions of the new formats

Despite popular belief, the least concerning factors among tech enthusiasts:

  • Availability of DVDs – Less than one-third (30 percent) are concerned about getting the information they want, when they want it.
  • Choice of Manufacturer – Only one out of five (20 percent) are worried about the available manufacturers.

“The studios, manufacturers, retailers and media companies have their own theories on how this will play out in the market,” said Claudia Haase, senior research manager at CNET. “But, at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is the consumer. We look to our tech enthusiasts as leaders in the industry. If they are hesitant to adopt, it is unrealistic to expect the less tech-savvy population will rush to market.”

The CEA / CNET Tech First Panel: Next-Generation DVD (October 2006) study was completed in September 2006. It was designed and formulated by CNET, where people go to discover the latest in tech and consumer electronics, and CEA Market Research, the most comprehensive source of sales data, forecasts, consumer research and historical trends for the consumer electronics industry. Please cite any information to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA®) and CNET. The complete study is available free to CEA member companies.

About CNET

CNET (www.cnet.com) is where people go to discover the latest in tech and consumer electronics. Driven by a trusted voice and a passionate community, CNET creates an open environment for people to find and use the best products to fit their lifestyle. The powerful combination of CNET’s award-winning news, lab-tested product reviews, safe and spyware-free downloads, and user-generated content give people information and inspiration to live and thrive in today’s digital world.

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