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If you're already confused by the proliferation of digital media types and don't know the difference between a DVD-R, DVD+R, or DVD-RW, get ready for the next assault. The good news is that digital television and the resulting high-definition DVD technology will be a vast improvement over the images we typically see on TV today. The bad news is that once again there is no standardized format, so compatibility remains an issue.
Finally, DVD players have reached a price-point where most people can afford them. And, DVD recorders are reaching a price-point that threatens the future of VHS recorders. Industry's answer to that? Create a new DVD format to make the old format obsolete.
This is typical. The home electronics industry has been steadily nudging us toward the next new thing. But this time around, there's a difference ... and Toshiba and film studios are proceeding cautiously. While they may say they're putting DVD content on one side of the disk and HD-DVD content on the other to encourage people to make the format transition, I suspect there's another reason ... that they're worried the consumer will not make the leap.
No, I'm not saying people don't want the next best thing. They always do. What I am saying is that earning power in the U.S. is eroding. Blue collar jobs are being relocated overseas and the jobs replacing them pay less ... all at a time when costs for energy, health care, and God knows what else are going up. So, while white collar earners might be able to afford this upcoming new format, a lot of blue collar earners are hanging onto their VCRs ... not wanting to upgrade to a DVD format they know the industry plans to sunset.
It's also well to note that, all the while, when those who can afford the technology are salivating over the possibility of being the first on their block to have it, the industry remains in motion. And deep in the bowels of Toshiba's R&D department (and other R&D departments), they're surely working on the "UD-DVD" format that will make HD-DVD obsolete ... and possibly even laying the groundwork for the successor to UD-DVD.
P.S. I'm speaking as a person who, back in the early seventies, laid out a considerable amount of money on what the industry told me was the next new thing - Quadraphonic Stereo. I bought the SQ decoders from Sony to cover the SQ technology offerings and a JVC 4-channel receiver/amp with four speakers to handle it ... as well as the Discrete technology JVC championed. And as we all know, SQ and Discrete quadraphonic stereo technology now rests in the graveyard of home entertainment systems. The consumer didn't "jump" back then ... and it's possible they won't "jump" now either.