Posted by: kurtsh | August 28, 2006

INFO: Yes, 32-bit Windows Vista COULD BE capable of playing HD-DVDs

I hate the Internet sometimes.  Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like I don’t recognize how the Internet has helped to level the commercial & equality playing field.  However the Internet was the reason Comdex & shows like it went under.  The Internet has encouraged less face-to-face contact and more electornic contact.  And the Internet is the reason lame media companies jump the gun, publicize stories & quotes out of content, without verifying and checking their sources, then claim "they’re just informing the public".

Like this debacle with HD-DVD playback on 32-bit Windows Vista.  In the old days folks would hold off on publishing anything until they got a detailed explanation.  Instead, if someone burps on stage at some convention, it gets blogged about from a cellular phone in the audience. 

Here’s all you need to know:

1) Windows Vista will not ship from Microsoft with the modules necessary to playback HD-DVD content

WHY?  We aren’t putting it in because we don’t want to build in the cost of the H.264 license (one of 3 codecs that high definition DVDs may need to playback video) into Windows Vista, being that this isn’t something that every Tom, Dick, and Harry wants to pay for.  If you don’t own a high definition DVD player on your PC, why the heck would you want to pay for the extra $20 or whatever it costs for the ability to play it back?  (Keep in mind that Microsoft has to pay hard cash to some organization out there that owns the IP rights to H.264, for each and every copy of the H.264 codec that gets distributed.  If we shipped Windows Vista with HD-DVD playback, the cost of H.264 would either get put into the the cost of the Windows OS at retail for everyone or we simply leave it out and we let people who need it buy it separately.)

…this is no different than today’s standard definition DVDs & the MPEG2 playback license.  We don’t ship Windows XP with the ability to play DVDs today out of the box because the MPEG2 codec is something like $9 a PC.  Does everyone want to be forced to pay an extra $9 in their Windows XP license, making the retail cost $108 per copy instead of $99 per copy of WinXP Home Edition?  There’s an awful lot of people out there that have no intention of ever playing a DVD on their PC… so why make them pay for it?

2) Windows Vista will require the installation of 3rd party HD-DVD decoder to playback HD-DVDs

WHY? I don’t know what the cost is for the H.264 codec (which will undoubtedly be larger than the $9 for the MPEG2 codec) but I can tell you that the cost of our upcoming XBox360 HD-DVD drive that we’re shipping will include the cost of the H.264 codec license (that we’re licesning from ATI)… only because we know that XBox360 owners that buy the HD-DVD drive will specifically want to play back HD-DVD movies.  This is not so with Windows Vista desktop PCs – A person with an HD-DVD drive may only use it for data archival/backup.  Either way, we’re providing a choice to the consumer by not forcing everyone to pay for the license.

Again, this is no different than today’s standard definition DVD’s:  We require the installation of a standard definition DVD decoder from Sonic, Intervideo, nVidia, or Cyberlink in order to playback movies.  These are all pay-for products that cost about $15.

One important caveat is that since it’s a 3rd party ISV (software developer) that has to create & publish these HD-DVD codecs/decoders for Windows Vista (32-bit), its availability to consumers is dependent on companies like Sonic, Intervideo, Cyberlink, & nVidia – not Microsoft.  

In other words, go bug them – not us.  We’re not the ones that make the H.264 codec for HD-DVDs. 


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