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Computerized Investing > July/August 2006

Editor's Outlook

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by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

The first VCR my family had growing up was a Betamax machine. I guess my Mom was one of the “early adopters” of this new technology and, after several years, had dozens of Beta tapes. Despite initially having superior video and audio quality, Beta couldn’t match VHS’ storage capacity—the first Beta tapes could only hold one hour of video, while the first VHS tapes could hold two hours. In the end, Beta lost out to VHS in the last great format war.

Fast forward 30 years and the dogs of war are again baying on the horizon. HD DVD and Blu-ray are new high-definition technologies battling to become the consumer high-definition digital video standard. The monetary stakes are incalculable for the winner, while the loser will be relegated to a footnote in technology history. Both formats have big-name support—HD DVD is backed by Toshiba, RCA, Sanyo, Intel, and Microsoft while Blu-ray has the support of Sony, Panasonic, Dell, and Apple.

Both HD DVD and Blu-ray promise superior audio and video compared to today’s DVDs (assuming you have a high-definition television). The other advantage these formats offer is greater storage capacity. HD DVDs can store the equivalent of more than 21 standard CDs or more than three standard DVDs. Blu-ray discs can store even more, with the capacity equivalent to that of over 35 CDs or more than five standard DVDs.

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