Itís hard to believe that the DVD movie disc format was launch just under 10 years ago yet the huge popularity of the disc and its compatible disc players made DVD the fastest selling movie format of all time and just recently it was announced there were more DVD players in peopleí homes than there were of the older VHS format. Thereís no doubt that the improved picture quality, the ability to add extra features like commentaries, deleted scenes and the priced-to-sell DVDs themselves made them extremely attractive to consumers.
However, companies are always looking to that Next Big Thing, the format that they believe the consumer really wants to get their hands on right now (or the format the hardware manufacturers and movie studios want to sell once the market is saturated
-ed.) So in 2006 two competing formats were launched that are intended to be the next step beyond DVD. Sony is backing the Blu-Ray format, as evidenced by costly support seen in the Playstation 3. The next-gen console has an included Blu-Ray player built into both their $499 and $599 models and the PS3ís high price is attributable at least in part to having the included Blu-Ray disc.
Microsoftís Xbox 360 console launched a year earlier and used the current DVD format for both its games and movies with Microsoft saying that the DVD format would be fine with them. However, Microsoft didnít want to get out of the next-gen disc format completely. They decided to offer Xbox 360 users an add-on hardware disc that supported the competing HD DVD format (the disc drive does not play Xbox 360 games). HD DVD players launched a few months before Blu-Ray and at the moment itís still a toss-up as to which format will come out on top or if indeed both are ignored by the majority of consumers.
Microsoftís HD DVD drive for the Xbox 360 costs $200 at the moment (you can likely get it for slightly less if you look hard enough) and while thatís an expensive price for a movie only disc player itís currently the cheapest route to take for high definition home cinema if you happen to already own an Xbox 360 console (some people have found a way to make the HD DVD drive work on a PC as well). The size of the disc drive is fairly large; itís even bigger than the Nintendo Wii if you donít include the Wiiís vertical stand. The disc itself is designed to sit naturally in a vertical position and you can lay it down in a horizontal position as well. The add-on driveís color and shape are clearly made to mimic the Xbox 360 console itself.
Along with the drive Microsoft also gives you a free Xbox 360 Universal Remote Control (the big one, not the smaller version that was included in the first Xbox 360 consoles shipments). The first shipments of the HD DVD drive also pack in a free HD DVD movie, the recent Peter Jackson remake of King Kong. Considering that the remote control has a retail price of $30 and the HD DVD King Kong disc retails for around $25, getting the HD DVD add-on disc is somewhat of a bargain.