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This story was printed from CdrInfo.com,
located at http://www.cdrinfo.com.

Appeared on: Monday, February 13, 2006
Interview With Mr Brian Zucker of Dell Concerning Blu-Ray

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Brian Zucker serves as Technology Evangelist in the Office of the CTO for Dell. In this role, Brian is responsible for driving a deeper understanding of new PC technologies while also helping to define future product direction. He is responsible for communicating the customer benefits of new technologies in emerging products both within the company and to the outside world.

Brian joined Dell over fifteen years ago while completing his postgraduate studies. During his tenure at Dell he has held many different engineering and managerial roles. Ten years ago Brian took the lead engineering position for desktop OEM engineering where he helped launch the Dimension product line. Since that time Brian has led many efforts for architecting Dimension desktop systems and related client products.

Brian holds an MSEE from the University of Texas at Austin, with specialization in computer engineering. He has a BS in computer engineering from Tulane University in New Orleans.

On behalf of the Blu-Ray Disc Acossiation, Mr Zucker was willing to answer to CDRinfo's questions regarding the latest Blu-Ray technology developments.

It is obvious that an efficient video encoding/compression scheme, (such as AVC, H.264) would allow consumers to store and enjoy many hours of High Definition (HD) content on current dual layer DVD media. So, why the need for a new DVD format?

The space needed to store high definition content overcomes the compression rates that are gained by going to the newer codecs. With data rates of around 12-15Mb/s for a high definition H.264 AVC stream we are talking about a 50%-100% increase over what we see on DVD today with standard definition material and MPEG2. So there is a definite need to increase the capacity as well. You would not be able to get many hours of HD content on a DVD at a reasonable compression rate.

Could you explain the main advantages of the Blu-ray format compared to the rival HD DVD format?

Blu-ray Disc offers unparalleled capacities and has the broadest industry support from movie studios, music companies, consumer electronics companies, and of course a large portion of the IT industry. Blu-ray Disc is focused on cross platform enablement with the requirements of gaming, movie and music playback, and data backup all comprehended in the design. Blu-ray disc is designed from the ground up for a 10-15 year life span and is not simply an effort to extend the life of a previous generation.

Blu-Ray-ready products will cost significantly more than current DVD A/V home equipment. How will the Blu-Ray companies convince the consumers to invest on new home entertainment devices?

As with all new technologies the issue of cost relates to market demand and volume manufacturing. Blu-ray Disc should have a similar pricing model to what DVD had when it launched where a consumer would initially see higher prices until wide spread adoption took hold. Once volumes ramp, pricing will certainly come down.

Could you give us an update on the progress relating to the Blu-Ray specifications approved by the BDA?

On January 5, 2006 the Blu-ray Disc Association announced that all three Blu-ray books (BD-ROM, BD-R, and BD-RE) are available for licensing. This is unprecedented given that the format launches with write capability from the start.

Sony believes that the PS3 game console will boost the Blu-Ray success. Gates has also promised an HD DVD–ROM as an external peripheral for the Xbox 360. Do you believe that Sony has a point here? Will games consoles help users accept both formats more readily and what will be the pricing policy in this instance to avoid driving the price of games consoles through the roof?

Getting Blu-ray Disc players in the hands of the consumers will be key to driving the adoption of the format. The Playstation 3 is just one of many new products coming out this year that will help accelerate the acceptance of Blu-ray Disc in the marketplace. We appreciate Sony’s help with both the development of the format and for helping to stimulate customer interest in high definition content.

Consumers are concerned about whether they will be able to enjoy HD content on their PCs. Considering that currently, the majority of PC equipment is not equipped with an HDMI (digital) port, are there any plans to provide digital content for current, unprotected DVI or analog monitor ports?

The specification allows for full display of high definition content through unprotected DVD or analog outputs but ultimately the display resolutions will be dictated by the studios and their specific requirements for legacy ports.

Lately we have experienced a large debate regarding the content protection schemes featured by both HD DVD and Blu-Ray formats. Microsoft and Intel have decided to support the HD DVD format. How does the Blu-Ray protection scheme differ from that proposed for the HD DVD format?

Both formats will be using the AACS specification for content protection. Blu-ray Disc differs in that additional elements (BD+ and RomMark) have been added to help develop a robust specification to meet the needs of consumers, manufacturers, and content providers. BD+ relates to the ability to keep content from playing on a known hacked player while the RomMark is a manufacturing mark placed on the disc to help reduce mass piracy of discs.

Could you explain in plain words what Mandatory Managed Copy protection means to the end user and why the BDA decided not to implement it its format?

Actually, Mandatory Managed Copy will be implemented on Blu-ray Disc. MMC is a part of the AACS specification and as such the Blu-ray Disc format will follow the implementation guidelines set by this underlying specification. Mandatory Managed Copy is the ability to transfer or make copies of the digital commercial content on a protected disc under policies and fees dictated by the content providers. For instance, a consumer could buy a Blu-ray Disc and then make a back up copy for future use in case of damage, transfer the movie to a portable player for viewing, etc.

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Will my standalone Blu-Ray recorder require an internet connection in order to authorize backups of Blu-ray movies?

The specific details of how Managed Copy will be implemented have not yet been completed. However, there will certainly be no requirement to have an internet connection for standard movie playback.

Lately, the HD DVD spokesmen said that the HD DVD Video titles may not be regionally locked. On the other hand, the BDA has announced plans for regional codes for the Blu-Ray Video. How do you believe the distribution of regionally coded Blu-Ray video titles will affect the market success of the Blu-Ray format?

The Blu-ray Disc Association is currently working the specifics behind region coding policies with the member studios to understand the business implications as well as consumer impact.

The availability of affordable recordable/rewritable Blu-Ray media is one of the key factors that will lead to the success of either HD DVD or Blu-Ray formats. Do you believe that the media manufacturers will widely support the new formats anytime soon? What about support from Taiwanese manufacturers?

Pilot lines and early production runs have already started from several manufacturers. The license is being made available to companies in Taiwan as well as the rest of the world to start production efforts of their own. We see good progress on the manufacturing side and predict a great format launch world wide.

PC-related Blu-Ray products (drives) should be aligned to the content security requirements of the Blu Ray Video format. What kind of I/O interface will these products have, considering that the current SATA, ATAPI or USB/FireWire interfaces do not comply with these security requirements?

Industry standard components and interfaces will be used. There will be no need for new, proprietary solutions as that would play counter to the efforts of a new format launch. Data that is transferred over these open interfaces will certainly have to be encrypted in order to protect the content from piracy.

The DVD Forum has also been keen to work with the Chinese in order to deliver a Chinese version of the HD DVD format. Does the BDA plan to proceed with a similar plan for the Chinese market?

The Blu-ray Disc Association is not restricting which countries or companies can obtain licenses or specifications. The goal is to make a world wide format that meets the needs of as many different consumers as possible.

Do you believe that the Taiwanese-backed next generation DVD format, EVD, will be a success or failure and why?

A new optical format needs many ingredients to be successful. It must meet customer needs that include new features and benefits over the previous version, maintain a similar or better cost structure, offer compelling content, and offer support from multiple companies. The development of a format for isolated needs or without industry backing will ultimately only provide a niche solution.

Is there a chance we could see a comboHD DVD/Blu-Ray device before 2007?

A combo device would only prolong a format war that neither the consumers, manufacturers, nor content providers want to see.

Toshiba is the main backer of the HD DVD format, while Samsung has announced that both internal and external Blu Ray drives will be launched simultaneously in 2006 under the Samsung brand name. Could the TSST corporation be for Samsung a mean of access to the HD DVD technology in the future?

Mr Zucker did not answer to this question.

Could you give us an update of the Hollywood studio support for the Blu-Ray?

Currently 7 of the 8 major studios have stated support for the format. This is in addition to the two largest providers of music, Sony BMG and Universal Music Group. The format also has the support of major gaming companies like Electronic Arts and Vivendi Universal Games.

When do you expect Blu-Ray to replace the current DVD format?

Blu-ray Disc adoption will closely follow the penetration of high definition television sets. Other factors such as PC usage for archival and backup needs as well as gaming on both PCs and consoles will help to drive growth of the format. It is really too early to say when a complete replacement will be seen as that is still several years away.

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