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Getty

Red vs. Blu: How Sony Won the HD DVD Format Wars

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Getty

In early 2007, representatives from each side of the biggest format war to hit store shelves since VHS vs. Betamax visited a major film studio in Los Angeles. Presenting separately, they highlighted the benefits of choosing their respective software. The people soliciting on behalf of HD DVD touted an easier conversion of factories already making standard DVDs, while lobbyists for Blu-ray described a greater storage capacity of 25 gigabytes, 10 more than the alternative.

Just before departing, one of Blu-ray’s advocates repeated that they’d be willing to do anything to garner the studio’s business. “But remember,” he said, “we were never here.”

The studio was Wicked Pictures, producer and distributor of such adult-themed fare as Good Will Humping and Hotel No Tell. With a 10 percent stake in the $24 billion home video market, salacious movies were often the first to adopt the newest technologies; by courting their business, each format was hoping to trump the other.

Lasting from mid-2006 until early 2008, Sony’s Blu-ray and Toshiba’s HD DVD rivalry took few prisoners. There were allegations of bribes, public relations sniping, and even threats of physical violence among devotees. For Toshiba, who had spent millions developing high-resolution home video, it was an opportunity to expand their market; for Sony, it was an opportunity to wash out the sour taste of seeing their Betamax hardware sent to landfills in the early 1980s. They were determined to make sure that didn't happen again.

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From the time manufacturers realized that blue lasers could pick up data using a shorter wavelength—allowing more information to be packed into a standard optical disc—the idea of high-definition digital software as an eventual replacement for DVD was a natural fit. Those discs, introduced in 1995, had only 480 lines of vertical resolution; the newer HD television sets could display up to 1080 lines. As many as 16 million U.S. households were renting or buying movies that were inferior to the monitor they were being screened on.

Toshiba and Sony shortly became polar opposites in the battle for that market share. Each wanted to dominate what they perceived would be a lucrative licensing arrangement with other manufacturers; Sony, in particular, saw the potential for profits in exploiting their own entertainment library by reissuing catalog titles on the new format.

Both announced plans in 2002. By 2005, sensing the retailer and consumer complaints that would come with yet another “format war,” the two attempted what amounted to a home video peace treaty. But each found the other’s limitations at fault: Blu-ray was harder to integrate into computer assemblies, while HD DVD lacked storage capacity. Talks broke off, and both companies plowed ahead, separately. After delays in getting copy protection issues resolved, neither released a piece of hardware until the spring of 2006.

At $599, Toshiba’s introductory model was actually selling below the $674 they spent in parts for each one; Sony, unwilling to present a loss leader, introduced a Blu-ray player at a $1000 price point. As with virtually any new piece of technology, only the most enthusiastic early adopters dove in. Most everyone else waited to see which one held the most promise.

Sony obviously had no intention of issuing their studio films on a rival format, so titles like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man were exclusive to Blu-ray. HD DVD had exclusive agreements with Paramount and Universal, meaning that films like The Bourne Identity were available in red-tinted packaging that signaled a compatible disc for HD DVD players.

Some studios—Paramount and Warner Bros. among them—refused to choose sides, releasing their titles on both formats; Netflix shipped movies in whichever format the customer preferred.

By the end of 2006, HD DVD titles had collectively outsold Blu-ray virtually every week. But Sony had already laid out a plan to bring the conflict to a swift and unmerciful end in 2007.

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Even though industry estimates had Toshiba and their partners moving roughly 578,000 HD DVD players by the end of 2007, with 370,000 Blu-ray players coming in a distant second, those numbers didn’t factor in Sony’s Trojan horse: the Playstation 3.

The third generation video game console had the ability to play Blu-ray discs, a feature that seemed almost altruistic on Sony’s part. At $499, it was as cheap—or cheaper—than most video players of the era. If you wanted a Blu-ray component, it was a deal; if you just played video games, there would probably come a day when you’d begin to buy movies supported by the device.

While hardware sales appeared close, it didn’t quite reflect the reality. At a time HD DVD was looking to be in 750,000 total homes in the U.S., Sony had moved 2.4 million Playstations; worldwide, they had created over 10.5 million households that had the ability to play Blu-ray films.

Toshiba tried to get more aggressive. They reportedly paid $150 million to Paramount and DreamWorks Animation to go exclusively with HD DVD; they slashed prices on players, with entry-level units going for as low as $99.

LG tried to play both sides by introducing a dual-format player. At $1000, consumers weren’t interested. In fact, they were actually confrontational about the wallet-emptying maneuvering; one popular discussion board, AVSForum.com, was shut down in late 2007 over threats of violence directed at members who supported the competing medium.

Although Warner Bros. initially took a similar approach—the studio even issued movies with both formats in the same package, a compromise they called Total HD—they could see sales were leaning in Sony’s direction. Titles like Harry Potter, which were released on both HD DVD and Blu-ray, saw Blu outselling the rival software by two to one.

That kind of straight comparison was enough to force a decision. In early 2008, Warner Bros. announced they would be backing Blu-ray exclusively. With a leading share of home video sales, the studio’s choice made retailers fall in line. Walmart, Best Buy, and Target dropped HD DVD hardware and software. Harry Potter had called it.

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In a rare moment of corporate humility, so did Toshiba. In February 2008, company president and CEO Akio Ozaka declared production of HD DVD devices would cease immediately. Sony, meanwhile, tried to shake off reports that they had paid Warner Bros. $500 million to expedite their commitment to Blu-ray. (The allegation, first reported by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Don Lindich, was never confirmed by either studio.)

In the two major home video battles of the past 40 years, Sony holds a respectable 1-1 record. They might soon have a chance to improve upon it: The latest in video cornea massages, high dynamic range (HDR), is beginning to draw lines in the sand, with Sony backing technology dubbed HDR10 and other manufacturers opting for Dolby Vision. Beyond bragging rights, the stakes for being wrong in these situations are high. By supporting HD DVD in 2006, Toshiba lost an estimated $1 billion.

Wicked Pictures has yet to choose a side.

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Apple
Here's a Preview of the 70 New Emojis Coming to Your iPhone
Apple
Apple

Get ready to add a whole new set of symbols to your emoji vocabulary. As CNN reports, Apple has released a sneak peak of some of the 70 new emojis coming to iOS in late 2018.

In February 2018, the Unicode Consortium announced the latest additions to their official emoji database. Software makers have since been working on customizing the designs for their own operating systems, and now iPhone and iPad users are getting a preview of what the new emojis will look like on their devices.

One of the most highly anticipated new symbols is the redhead emoji, something people have been demanding for a while. A curly haired option, another popular request, will be added to the line-up, as will gray-hair and bald emoji choices. Each of the new hair types can be added to the classic face emoji regardless of gender, but when it comes to specific characters like the bride or the jogger emojis, users will be limited to the same hair options they had before.

If Apple users ever want to express their inner superhero, two new super characters, a man and woman, will let them do so. They will also have new "smiley" symbols to choose from, like a party emoji, a sad eyes emoji, and a frozen emoji.

In the food category you have a head of lettuce and a mango, and for dessert, a cupcake and a mooncake—a festive Chinese pastry. New animals include a peacock, a kangaroo, and a lobster. The lobster emoji stirred some controversy in February when Mainers noticed the Unicode version was missing a set of legs. The design was quickly revised, and Apple's version is also anatomically correct.

These images just show a small sample of the emojis that will be included in an iOS update planned for later in 2018. Users will have to wait to see the final designs for other the symbols on the list.

New Apple emojis.
Apple

New Apple emojis.
Apple

New Apple emojis.
Apple

New Apple emojis.
Apple

[h/t CNN]

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iStock
Why an Ex-FBI Agent Recommends Wrapping Your Keys in Tinfoil Whenever You Leave Your Car
iStock
iStock

A car thief doesn't need to get their hands on your keys to break into your vehicle. If you use a wireless, keyless system, or fob, to unlock your car, all they need to do is steal the signal it emits. Luckily there's a tool you can use to protect your fob from hackers that you may already have in your kitchen at home: tinfoil.

Speaking with USA Today, retired FBI agent Holly Hubert said that wrapping car fobs in a layer of foil is the cheapest way to block their sensitive information from anyone who may be trying to access it. Hackers can easily infiltrate your car by using a device to amplify the fob signal or by copying the code it uses. And they don't even need to be in the same room as you to do it: They can hack the fob inside your pocket from the street outside your house or office.

Electronic car theft is a growing problem for automobile manufacturers. Ideally fobs made in the future will come with cyber protection built-in, but until then the best way to keep your car safe is to carry your fob in an electromagnetic field-blocking shield when you go out. Bags made specifically to protect your key fob work better than foil, but they can cost more than $50. If tinfoil is all you can afford, it's better than nothing.

At home, make sure to store your keys in a spot where they will continue to get protection. Dropping them in a metal coffee can is a lot smarter than leaving them out in the open on your kitchen counter.

[h/t USA Today]

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