The war has began according to the media for the DVD successor. Sony Blue-ray vs. Toshiba/NEC HD-DVD. The agreements between the film studios and the above companies have started to settle. Unfortunately all of them miss one very important thing. It is not what the next storage medium will be but if the consumer will benefit by making the leap to the new technology. I will go back in time when the optical disks first came out. Their aim was to replace the analog mediums that existed , vinyl disks and cassettes. Laser disks had almost the same size with vinyl disks. They flopped. The optical technology however did not die. Sony and Philips presented the CD which was much smaller than a Laser disk. Comparing it with the vinyl disk, CD was far superior (although the vinyl fans still disagree) not only because of the high sound quality (for a human ear the difference of the limited frequency is not notable) but also because the medium was much less fragile. The wide acceptance, though, from the public came slowly.

In the end, however, the CD medium succeeded in entering our houses especially after the heavy Marketing from the two companies and expanding it's capabilities so that it could be also used as a storage medium for more types of data beyond sound. The agreements with the music companies was a big factor for the success of the Audio CDs. As a storage medium for the PCs, the arrival of CD-ROM can be considered as salvation in a time where the needs for bigger capacities of data were increasing spectacularly while the magnetic storage mediums (Floppy disks) did not provide the expected reliability that the CD could easily give.

In the video department however analog cassettes were not beaten. The main reason was initially the inability to write in the medium and even when computer CD-writers became widespread the Video CD creation remained complicated and very expensive plus that the end user wouldn't earn many things in comparison with the use of analog cassette (the quality was almost the same) and also the maximum time duration the Video CD had was not enough. Someone can say that the Audio CD could easily had the same fate if there were no agreements with the music companies, mainly because of the inability of them to write (till computer CD-Recorders were widely spread) and thus the analog cassettes accompanied us a little more.

The DVD however came to change everything in Video. Agreements with the film studios were settled while the DVD medium gave a lot of benefits to the end user in comparison with the cassette. The much better picture quality and the digital multichannel sound were only the basic advantages over the analog cassette. Consumers have experienced the goods of the optical technology with the CD medium (especially the Audio CD) and so the transition to the new technology took place sooner.

From another perspective though the transition to the DVD medium was rather late. The public have been waiting for a long time for this change in the Video field. The characteristics of the Video CD were not enough to convince them, something however that was done with the DVD. And this is the wrong estimation the companies do. They believe that their new format, HD-DVD or Blue-ray, will have the same luck with the DVD medium. They ignore the fact that the characteristics of these new disks may not convince us in changing our equipment in the living room. And the worst, they turn a blind eye in the flop of some other formats like Super Audio CD and Audio DVD.

In 2006 the first devices capable of playing the new formats will arrive while many big studios will also sell their films in one or both of the two new formats. And here comes the confusion of the consumer. At a first glance on the characteristics of the two new formats, we simply see that the only essential difference with the DVD is the increased capacity, with the Blue-ray surpassing the HD-DVD on that field while the HD-DVD disks would be able to be produced with the exactly same equipment that today's DVDs are produced (we do not actually mean the computer Dvd-Recorders).

The increased capacity actually means increased picture and sound quality compared to the DVD. Is it worth however to purchase new equipment in order for us to see our beloved film from the 720 lines/pixel rows in the 1000 and more of the new formats (when the resolution of 720 lines that the DVD gives seems quite large when most CRT televisions can only show about 600 lines)? And with the arrival of more devices supporting other alternative codecs like the DivX and the XviD with a compression ration two times higher than that of DVD's MPEG-2 with the same quality, what will the consumer choice be?

Even in computers the question for the immediate use of the new format gives a negative answer. The DVD makes it's job very well for any use while the recent Dual Layer writable disks actually only help us make precise copies of DVD movies. Most software companies continue to supply their programs in CD(s), even games where the use of a DVD instead of multiple CDs seems a more economic solution. And although the new Playstation (3!) will support Blue-ray disks it seems to be rather a method of promotion of the new format while there is only a handful of games that actually exploit the full capacity of a Single Layer DVD.

In final analysis when the user makes his job well with the existing equipment why should he change it. Each transition into a new technology was done because it served certain needs. The Blue-ray and the HD-DVD do not show something similar. Maybe after 5-6 years when all of us will have in our houses video projectors or enormous plasma/TFT screens we'll make the change. The DVD still has many years of life.