HP Backs Off Blu-ray Support Over DRM

Seemingly reversing its stance in next-generation DVD battle, Hewlett-Packard has asked Blu-ray to re-think its planned copyright protection and instead implement the "managed copy" feature found in HD DVD, which would enable consumers to copy movies to their PCs and stream them across a network.

HP additionally requested that Blu-ray implement interactive menus using iHD, also found in HD DVD. iHD -- developed by Toshiba and Microsoft -- will bring advanced interactivity to DVD movies and is slated to be natively supported by Windows Vista.

Maureen Weber, HP's general manager of personal storage, was in Los Angeles this week for discussions with Blu-ray about the demands.

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"We're still supporting Blu-ray, but we're very serious that we want these technologies. If in the end, they're supported in one and then not the other; we'll have to make a choice," Weber told Reuters.

However, Weber's new position contradicts statements she made just last month following news that Microsoft and Intel would support HD DVD. The companies cited the format's rights management that includes support for PC environments.

"Every computer manufacturer in the BDA carefully reviewed both formats and ultimately chose Blu-ray as the superior solution for meeting customer demands," Weber said at the time. "It is surprising that [Microsoft's] announcement is not aligned with that of the vast majority of the computer industry and is contrary to our consumer research."

But now, the world's number-two computer maker is joining a number of PC industry heavyweights pushing for more freedom when it comes to high-definition DVDs.

Sony's Blu-ray is more restrictive, HD DVD supporters claim, and Bill Gates recently labeled format as anti-consumer. "The inconvenience is that the [movie] studios got too much protection at the expense consumers and it won't work well on PCs," Gates explained.

For its part, Blu-ray has staunchly denied such assertions.

Dell, the largest PC manufacturer and Blu-ray supporter, has not yet weighed in on the recent events. In September, company CTO Kevin Kettler said, "Dell has no doubt that Blu-ray Disc best meets the needs of computer users and provides the type of open industry standards needed to drive innovation and growth of the format across all platforms."

Still, it's unclear whether consumers will even express interest in high-definition DVD - especially with the confusion a fractured marketplace will bring. Movie studios could create hybrid discs that also contain original DVD content, but that won't encourage users to make the leap into HD.

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