The most recent podcast
recorded by Microsoft's Xbox Live Director of Programming Larry 'Major Nelson' Hryb has dealt with Microsoft's decision to support the HD-DVD next-gen disc format, for which an Xbox 360 add-on drive is due out soon, ahead of Sony's Blu-Ray.
Talking as part of the podcast interview, Amir Majidimehr, whose group at Microsoft oversees audio/video compression technologies, as well as high-definition optical formats, noted that initially the company was “quite active” with regards to the development of both of the HD-DVD and Blu-ray formats. He also commented that the company worked with both organizations in order to get Microsoft's video compression technology VC1 adopted within both formats.
He stated of this move: "That really enabled those technologies to have better picture quality, but also be more compatible with PC and internet standards that use VC1 and Windows Media."
However, Majidimehr noted Microsoft began to get more and more concerned about Blu-ray as time went on, specifically concerning the "viability of being able to manufacture" the Blu-ray disc itself. According to him, Blu-ray moves the recording surface very close to the top layer of the disc, protected by just a very thin coating, and that this makes maintaining "high reliability" of discs during the actual manufacturing process much more difficult.
This factor, according to Majidimehr, is the key difference between the two formats, as HD-DVD, like traditional DVD, protects its data between two layers of protective plastic - above and below - thus making manufacturing of the discs much more reliable.
Another reason Majidimehr explained for Microsoft's decision to embrace HD-DVD to the exclusion of Blu-ray was the latter's excessive copy protection. While both formats share a single form of copy protection called AACS (a consortium of which both Sony and Microsoft are founders), Blu-ray adds another layer of protection on the fly called BD+.
"Now it's optional and not every disc will use it, " conceded Majidimehr, "but from an implementation point of view we were facing a situation where we had to implement two forms of copy protection. And frankly from our point of view - and that of many other content providers and other companies - AACS is sufficient."
Regarding the fact that video game consumers and players are being “pulled into” and “used” in this format war, he noted: “If you look back, there was a moment in time where Sony made a decision to sort of bundle their two assets here that they want to see succeed, which is Blu-ray and PS3. PS3 obviously has its own momentum... but Blu-ray was not having good success.”
It was because of this that Majidimehr noted that he feels Sony decided to bundle Blu-ray within the upcoming PlayStation 3 platform in order to ensure a user base for both platforms, something a number of analysts have also remarked upon.