Monday, May 22, 2006

Good news for consumers

It's not official, but it looks like the major Hollywood studios are working out (or have already worked out) a deal that prevents movies from using the Image Constraint Token (ICT) in Blu-ray and HD-DVD discs. For the uninitiated, the ICT is a digital flag that movie studios can use to "protect" their movie content. When used, the high-resolution picture can be restricted to players that are connected to TV's using an encrypted HDMI connection (also known as HDCP). People connecting their Blu-ray or HD-DVD players to their TV's using standard analog connections, like composite or component video, wouldn't be able to view their DVD's in their high-resolution glory. Likely they'd be stuck with an current DVD generation quality picture.

Finally, it seems that the big wigs up top have come to understand the backlash that would ensue if customers were forced to upgrade their brand new HDTV's to play the new DVD's. Enforcing the ICT this early could effectively kill any demand for the new technology for the average customer, leaving it in the realm of audio- and video-philes. If true, this "grace period" would hopefully give the market the time they need to upgrade to a compatible TV. Personally, I don't like the fact that I'm going to have to buy a new TV, but at least now I have four years to do it.
The move would allow owners of analog HD sets -- not to mention gamers who pick up Microsoft's Xbox 360 HD DVD drive or Sony's non-HDMI junior Playstation 3 -- to watch their discs in full HD format, rather than being forced to endure downgrades to 540p. Of course, even if the unconfirmed agreement exists, after 2010 all bets are off. But, by then, you will presumably be ready to pick up a new HD set (or Xbox 720 or PS4). And, if we're lucky, the format war may be over by then as well, so you'll actually be able to buy an HD disc player that will be useful for more than a few months.


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