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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: most early adapters new this
By Lazarus Dark on 4/3/2007 6:17:10 AM , Rating: 2
I jumped in on dvd as soon as the first player came to 200 bucks. It was a cheap piece of crap. Since then, I have had what, like 5 standalone players, one good one, a couple walmart cheapies, right now I have a dvd/vcr combo thats pretty good. My dad jumped on vhs early and we had a terrible vcr with fake wood panels for the longest time growing up, but since then I have had at least a dozen vcr's. Early adopters knew what they were getting into. Hell, the first hddvd players were 1080i for gods sake. No one should have expected them to last more than a year. I am waiting for a 200 dollar read only blu ray drive. Why read only? Because I expect multilayer discs in two years and don't want to spend 700 on a bd burner just to toss it in two years when 10 layer burners come out for <200. If you can't afford to toss a thousand dollar standalone player in a year, then wait for the cheaper final spec ones to come out.

RE: most early adapters new this
By Christopher1 on 4/6/2007 8:53:10 AM , Rating: 2
Man, your family must be a whole lot more into tech even than mine is! When I was growing up, we had ONE VHS player out in our living room until that one busted (usually not really busted, just needed cleaned which was a pain in the ass).

Right now, we only have a DVD/VHS player, not counting the ones on our 3 computers, out in the living room.

Actually, you can forget about a "Read-only" Blu-Ray or HD-DVD drive. The standards say that all HD disc players for use in computers HAVE to be Read/Write ones, that's in both standards.

I think you are kinda...... optimistic about 10 layer burners being out anytime soon. The companies themselves are saying that those won't be out until 2015 at least, in their roadmaps to the future.

RE: most early adapters new this
By darkpaw on 4/6/2007 3:26:59 PM , Rating: 2
Not like it really tends to matter. DVD multilayer burners have been available for years, but the price of media still makes them quite cost prohibitive. For *most* applications its much better just to use multiple single layer disks as they cost 1/5th to 1/10th of the price.

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