New Chip May Bridge Blu-ray, HD-DVD Divide

Broadcom, a provider of wired and wireless broadband communications semiconductors, unveiled a high definition decoder chip at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show that it says is the first to be fully compliant with both of the dueling Blu-ray and HD-DVD optical disc formats.

The chip would enable manufacturers to design products able to decode compressed high-definition video, whether stored on Blu-ray or HD-DVD-formatted discs.

The chip’s development demonstrates that it is possible for devices and other products to support both standards, David Mercer, principal analyst with Strategy Analytics told TechNewsWorld — a proposition that manufacturers have thus far rejected.

“There is no reason why — either on the chip or machine level — that a player couldn’t be built with two separate drives, if that is what consumers want,” he maintained.

Clunky Designs?

Broadcom’s new chip is based on a previous generation of HD A/V decoder chips, which are currently shipping in cable, satellite and IPTV set-top boxes, media centers and gateways. This fourth-generation chip adds features that specifically address the HD optical-disc player market, while providing support for the VC-1 video compression standard.

The form factor presents a challenge, however, especially in the post iPod-era where devices must be small and sleek to get noticed. A product with a dual drive “wouldn’t be an elegant solution, obviously,” Mercer said.

No End in Sight

The smackdown between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray proponents goes beyond tech and design issues, however. The manufacturers are likely using the standards war to jockey for a greater share of the high-definition market.

The controversy is also about differing visions in the industry as to what high definition and the digital home mean to the consumer.

“Essentially, a deep fault line has emerged between the traditional world of consumer electronics and the world of the PC and IT,” Mercer said. It is unlikely this divide will be bridged anytime soon, in his view, despite the momentum behind Blu-Ray.

Forging Ahead

At any rate, the high definition market is still in the nascent stages. “Everyone knows there is demand for high definition content, but how big it will be remains to be seen,” commented Mercer.

In the meantime, film studios and manufacturers are releasing products built to their favored standard. At the CES show, for instance, Twentieth Century Fox and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment said they would release several films in Blu-Ray format, including the “Fantastic Four,” “Hitch” and “Ice Age.”

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