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Whither Microsoft HD Strategy?

Video Business Online thinks that Microsoft isn’t committing to either Blu-ray or HD-DVD because it doesn’t want to antagonize Sony or Toshiba, respectively. Microsoft is behind VC-1, a codec technology to be used by both camps. Microsoft is also a partner with Sony and Toshiba in the Advanced Access Content System (AACS) system.

when the Xbox 360 was unveiled in May […] the DVD drives were red-laser only.

That seemed to leave Microsoft at a disadvantage to Sony, whose PlayStation 3 console, unveiled a few days later, is built around the Sony-developed Blu-ray Disc high-def format. Sony hopes PS3 console sales will help build the installed based of Blu-ray playback devices and boost the format’s appeal as a high-def movie format.

In turn, Blu-ray’s success as a movie format will boost the appeal of PS3 as a home entertainment platform, helping Sony’s game business.

Meanwhile, though Microsoft doesn’t have the sort of direct interest in HD DVD that Sony has in Blu-ray, its decision not to include a comparable blue-laser-based high-def movie option in the Xbox 360 was puzzling to many.


In fact, one reason for Microsoft’s soft-pedaling so far in the U.S., sources who have negotiated with the company say, could be a desire not to antagonize the forces behind the two blue-laser formats.

Microsoft is a partner with Toshiba and Sony in the Advanced Access Content System, which both Blu-ray and HD DVD plan to use for copy-protection.

Both camps also are expected to include Microsoft’s Windows Media Video as a mandatory compression system in their format’s formal specs. That gives the software giant an interest in giving the blue-laser formats a chance to succeed.

Microsoft also is keenly awaiting final approval from the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers for adoption of its VC-1 video codec for use in high-def film and TV production and distribution.

But implementation of the VC-1 codec would also tap technology developed by Sony, which would need to license its use to Microsoft.

Antagonizing Sony now could prevent the software giant from securing the licenses it needs for VC-1, said sources close to Microsoft.

Link: Video Business Online (free subscription) – Microsoft Strategy on HD Unclear