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Format wars continue as bilingual interpreters appear

Broadcom Corporation recently announced a complete system-on-a-chip (SoC) solution that combines both Blu-ray and HD DVD optical disc formats into a single-chip design.

According the press release, the Broadcom BCM7440 offers OEMs a single 761-ball BGA chip design, which integrates a multiple-core MIPS architecture, a multi-stream HD video decoder, dedicated graphics engines, DSP-based audio processors, a security processor, DDR2 interfaces, integrated video and audio outputs and a complete array of system and network connectivity interfaces.

"Broadcom is simplifying the development of next-generation Blu-ray and HD DVD products with a proven, complete single-chip solution that offers OEMs both a time-to-market advantage and cost-effective design," said Peter Besen, Vice President, Consumer Electronics, Broadband Communications Group, of Broadcom.

"Consumers have expressed interest in adding high definition disc players to their home theater and personal movie entertainment systems, but are cautious about adopting the 'wrong' format," said Richard Doherty, Research Director of The Envisioneering Group. "We have found that four out of five American consumers have expressed knowledge of and/or interest in the availability of consumer products and PCs which could play both HD DVD and Blu-ray media. Broadcom's complete Blu-ray/HD DVD solution is best positioned to drive the wide adoption of the kinds of high-performance, dual-format products consumers want."

The BCM7440 incorporates the decoding, processing and memory functions for both Blu-ray and HD DVD media players, eliminating the need for manufacturers to build two different hardware platforms. The chip supports the wide variety of mandatory audio and video compression standards required for Blu-ray and HD DVD optical disc formats, including H.264/AVC, VC-1 , MPEG-2, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Tru-HD and DTS-HD. The BCM7440 also provides full backwards compatibility for current DVD video titles as well as DVD-R, DVD-VR and audio CDs.

The BCM7440 is now sampling in volume quantities to early access customers. No hybrid players using the new chip have been announced yet.

Last month, NEC announced a similar development of a dual-format chip. The next step in bridging the two formats could be a hybrid optical pick-up that would be capable of reading media from both formats.

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But will Sony et al play ball?
By DrDisconnect on 11/14/2006 9:18:41 AM , Rating: 2
I would love to see convergence but I see licensing both technologies to produce a hybrid drive as the ongoing barrier. Licensing both technologies will add substantively to the cost of HD-DVD/Bluray drive. Unless, the HD-DVD group virtually wave the licensing cost figuring it is better that they will sell more HD-DVDs if there are dual format drives on the market even if Sony gets paid full freight on their license fee.

I'm assuming there is no way Sony will support a dual format player with any sort of license cost cut.

RE: But will Sony et al play ball?
By TomZ on 11/14/2006 9:42:33 AM , Rating: 2
I think all the pieces will fall into place, because dual-format players are what the market will really want. I would expect that once dual-format players are available, sales of single-format players will drop to zero. Sony will realize that and recognize that if they want to keep Blu-ray viable in that market, they will have to play along. After all, there is no licensing revenue at all for Sony if Blu-ray fails.

RE: But will Sony et al play ball?
By peternelson on 11/14/2006 9:46:07 AM , Rating: 4
You're right licensing costs is the issue.

However there is a third way:

Ship a player physically capable of playing both, but only ship it with a license for one tech.

ie products on store shelf:

a) hd enabled player

b) bluray enabled player

People choose one and use it.

Then we wait and see which is successful.

Then those consumers who bought into the "unlucky" format, can get a software/license upgrade from the manufacturer (probably pay the license cost) in order to enable the same physical box to also play the other format (I doubt they get a rebate for the failed format license so just keep both).

This would let consumers feel confident in buying a box, knowing that if they made the wrong choice it's only an upgrade format charge rather than dump the box and buy a whole new one.

This broadcom chipset looks excellent to me.

RE: But will Sony et al play ball?
By TomZ on 11/14/2006 10:10:29 AM , Rating: 3
I find it unlikely that consumers will want the hassle of a software cross-grade, and I don't think they'll want the have to make an either-or decision between the formats. I think people would instead choose to pay a little more to have both formats supported.

By NullSubroutine on 11/14/2006 2:38:15 PM , Rating: 1

RE: But will Sony et al play ball?
By DigitalFreak on 11/14/2006 10:42:15 AM , Rating: 2
The Blu-Ray license does not allow dual format (Blu-Ray/HD-DVD) players. That's why you haven't seen any and never will until Sony changes the license.

RE: But will Sony et al play ball?
By aos007 on 11/14/2006 2:05:15 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, so as parent said, this allows manufacturers to design only one device and then ship either type of a player as market desires. This doesn't really concern the consumer at all, given that BluRay license prevents actual release of dual format player. Of course it's technically possible, but the politics won't let it happen. It does mean that there is a good chance that the cost will go down for both types of players.

And of course, in the future, Sony could relent and change the license. At that point it'd be easy to create dual format players. Unfortunately for early adopters, I'd say they will be screwed, even if their players could be made to play the other format. The only possible exception being the owners of very expensive players like Denon which have a history of offering firmware updates and future proofing to their customers.

In the end, all this means is, it's best to keep waiting. I don't know about US but in Canada, HDTV's are few and far between, and just about everyone I know is not willing to spend thousands of dollars on new TVs, including people who make 6-digit salaries and love watching movies. I bought my first DVD player for $350 but most people waited till it was well under $200 (and rental stores were full of content). At 0.6-1.2k$ CDN a pop, these players don't even register on consumer radars over here.

RE: But will Sony et al play ball?
By Gatt on 11/14/2006 2:39:34 PM , Rating: 2
Is that at all legal?

Isn't that similiar to Microsoft only permitting it's OS to be installed on an Intel computer?

I'd think not allowing Hybrids would come under the same heading as many of the accusations launched at MS over the years.

"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins
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