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Blu-ray Disc Java is coming this fall, and it may be incompatible with some of today's machines

The most common piece of advice given to those unsure about which high-definition optical format to buy is to simply wait until a victor emerges. Early adopters, however, should be aware that being cutting edge could come with a price, such as the risk of bugs or complete hardware and software obsolescence.

The Blu-ray Disc Association has mandated that all players of the format released after October 31 must adhere to a specific feature set that is currently not standard for today’s hardware. All Blu-ray Disc players after the fall date must support BD Java, a programming language for Blu-ray Disc media used mainly to deliver picture-in-picture for in-movie commentary and special features.

“Blu-ray player requirements and BD-Java specifications have been gradually changed over and over again, which has caused a good amount of grief for player manufacturers,” said optical storage analyst Wesley Novack. “The new specification and requirements will ensure that all Blu-ray players manufactured past October will be able to support the full range of BD-Java capabilities, including picture in picture and more.”

Early adopters of Blu-ray players may find themselves with inadequate hardware to support media using BD Java software.

Novack continued, “This might be bad news for early adopters who have already purchased a player, but it will not prevent them from playing back future Blu-ray movies. Owners of first generation Blu-ray players will probably not be able to use the full range of interactive features available on future Blu-ray Disc titles.”

Owners of current Blu-ray Disc players who are concerned about the future utility of their hardware are assured by manufacturers that current players won’t be made completely obsolete with the new standard.

“As is common in new format introductions, future products will include some additional features such as picture-in-picture,” said Philips VP Marty Gordon to Video Business. “Regardless of whether first-generation hardware supports these new features, the discs will still play.”

Unlike the HD DVD standard, Blu-ray players are not required to have Ethernet ports for firmware updates. Blu-ray machines with upgradable firmware likely will have a greater chance of conforming to the mandated format this fall.

Although HD DVD is not without its own set of early adopter issues, support for a standard programming language is already solidified for the format. HDi, an XML-based format developed by Microsoft and Toshiba, is mandatory on all HD DVD players and enables picture-in-picture special features to run alongside the feature length film.

Warner Bros. has released titles such as Batman Begins and V for Vendetta for HD DVD but not Blu-ray for the sole reason of the latter format’s lack of standardization. The upcoming Matrix trilogy release will also appear on HD DVD first for the same reason. Warner Bros. said that it would release Blu-ray Disc versions of such films in the fall, assumingly after the BD Java mandate takes effect.

Paramount has taken a different approach with Blu-ray’s apparent shortcoming. The studio released Mission: Impossible 3 on both HD DVD and Blu-ray, though the HD DVD version features a video picture-in-picture commentary, while the Blu-ray version does only with audio.

Only a couple Blu-ray movies feature picture-in-picture commentaries, those titles being Descent and Crank, though they do so without BD Java. Cleverly, and perhaps inelegantly, two complete versions of the movie are stored on a 50GB Blu-ray disc. One version contains the normal version of the film, while the second one features the picture-in-picture commentary hard-encoded on top of the film.

The addition of BD Java is not the only new requirement for Blu-ray players this fall. All players released after October 31 must hold a minimum 256MB of persistent memory storage. Those with network options will have to have 1GB of memory to support Web downloads.

Famed DVD producer, Van Ling, expresses discontent over the lack of standardization of the Blu-ray format. “The whole problem comes in when some manufacturers toe the minimum line and some others might make twice the minimum [functionality] on players,” said Ling. “In my view, I shouldn’t have to know what every single player can do. Rather than downgrade my creative vision for the lowest common denominator player, I want to create something [that fully realizes Blu-ray abilities].”

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RE: One has to wonder
By behemothzero on 4/2/2007 9:02:05 PM , Rating: 4
I'm guessing yes, since you can update the PS3's firmware. It's possible you could also install the appropriate software into the hard drive.

RE: One has to wonder
By GhandiInstinct on 4/2/07, Rating: 0
RE: One has to wonder
By quiksilv3r on 4/2/2007 9:31:54 PM , Rating: 1
This isn't a firmware's a hardware issue, which is why such a big fuss is being made.

RE: One has to wonder
By saratoga on 4/2/2007 9:42:24 PM , Rating: 3
No its a firmware issue mainly. You need a JVM installed in your firmware to play this. In principle, any player with enough CPU power will be fine ... with a firmware update.

I'm guessing some hardware players won't be updated, but the PS3 probably will be. Its got enough CPU power, and Sony is already pushing this pretty hard.

RE: One has to wonder
By cheetah2k on 4/2/2007 10:48:12 PM , Rating: 2
With the ease of updating the PS3's BR firmware, now there's all the more reasons to buy a PS3 for just playing BR media, and, well... the extra game console ability is an excellent bonus ;-)

RE: One has to wonder
By OxBow on 4/3/2007 9:51:49 AM , Rating: 2
The article lists this as a firmware issue. Most players, and all PS3's, have methods of upgrading the firmware. This is such a minor issue that will affect so incredibly few people I'm suprised anyone even wrote an article about it.

There are something like 100k non-PS3 bd players on the market. Of those, maybe 20k can't get their firmware upgraded. Of those 20k, how many people really care about pip? Less than a thousand worldwide? Probably less than that in reality. It doesn't make their players obsolete. They just won't be able to use pip.

RE: One has to wonder
By masher2 on 4/3/2007 9:59:27 AM , Rating: 2
Ok, first of all, BD Java encompasses a lot more than just PiP capability. The interactive menu system, subtitle downloading, active content such as games, etc....there are interactive titles out already that require BD Java.

Second of all, even if a player is firmware upgradeable, there's no guarantee it will have the processing capability to handle BD Java while keeping up with decoding the video stream.

RE: One has to wonder
By vorgusa on 4/3/2007 10:19:14 AM , Rating: 2
I agree with you there.. I am sure in the future people will come up with a lot of creative things to do with Java on Blue Ray. This will open up a lot of options

RE: One has to wonder
By Master Kenobi on 4/3/2007 12:51:25 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, like the poor security afforded to most Java Engines or Virtual Machines. Hey I know, Java virus for the BRD Players HERE WE COME!

RE: One has to wonder
By ElCapitanAmerica on 4/4/2007 7:37:07 PM , Rating: 2
"Java Engines or Virtual Machines"? You mean Virtual Machines, correct?

The first VMs were designed with security first (Applets always had a security manager installed), and it's a fairly secure tech platform by any standard. Heck, some of the Vista features you are seeing now, are old news for the first Java VM.

RE: One has to wonder
By TomZ on 4/5/2007 9:52:29 AM , Rating: 1
While you're right that one of the original uses of Java was to address security by creating a Java "sandbox" within a browser, the reality is that the JVM has had so many security holes it looks like Swiss cheese. That's one of the reasons you don't see pure Java code download running in browsers any more. Instead you see Javascript used which is less of a security risk because it is an even more controlled environment.

RE: One has to wonder
By geddarkstorm on 4/6/2007 4:24:23 PM , Rating: 2
And how would said viruses get onto the movies you're watching? Unless the manufacturer floods the market with virused disks, it isn't going to happen (or if you go around downloading Blueray java apps from the internet if that'll be possible?).

RE: One has to wonder
By Chaser on 4/4/2007 11:46:11 AM , Rating: 2
I'm sure the cell processor is up for it.

And yes this will only effect a very small amount of players. But as Daily Tech always does they try to repackage any negative article regarding Blue Ray or the PS3 and hope to turn it into a propaganda snow ball.

RE: One has to wonder
By Moishe on 4/3/2007 8:30:37 AM , Rating: 2
Most DVD player firmware can be upgraded. For my DVD player, I just have to burn a file onto a CDR and put it in the drive.

If this is simply a firmware issue, it won't effect too many (not that most people will know how or want to upgrade their DVD player's firmware). Maybe the BDJ feature set is too much of an upgrade though to fit, or maybe it requires more power than the older players have.

If I was a blu-ray early adopter I'd be slightly upset. I agree that it comes with buying bleeding edge tech, but still, they should have included everything in the format and left it alone. A format should be exactly the same across all titles. People need to trust that when they buy something it will work.

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