HP Threatens to Drop Blu-ray Backing

The Blu-ray Disc Association on Wednesday rebuffed requests by member Hewlett-Packard to include iHD in the next-generation DVD format, which would provide new interactive features. iHD is already slated to be part of both rival standard HD DVD and Windows Vista.

The development has spurred HP to suggest that if Blu-ray would not change its stance, the company may take a more neutral position and support rival HD DVD as well.

Such a move could pose a public relations nightmare for the still unlaunched format. While it could be argued that Blu-ray has gained the upper hand in the battle for the high-definition DVD, the group lost some key endorsements and has made some blunders in the marketing of the product.

Sony's insistence on near-complete control of the Blu-ray format could also be cited as a reason for the lack of a unified standard. The company made it clear in May there would be no deal if the agreement was not in Blu-ray's favor.

Losing the number-two PC maker could breathe new life into HD DVD. With the support of Microsoft, Intel and now potentially HP, the format would have a secure foothold in the computer industry. And sales of entertainment PCs have recently surged as Microsoft pushes Windows into the living room.

Signs of HP's wavering support for Blu-ray first appeared in late October. Along with iHD, the company requested that Blu-ray support managed copy DRM similar to that of HD DVD. The DRM would allow consumers to stream content to other devices through the home.

On Wednesday, however, it appeared as if neither would happen -- at least in the way HP wanted.

"Mandatory managed copy will be part of Blu-ray format, but while HP's request (for interactivity) is being considered, at this point in time, the Blu-ray group is still proceeding down the path of Java," Blu-ray spokesman Andy Parsons told Reuters.

Even though a form of managed copy will make it into Blu-ray, iHD appears to be the real deal-breaker. In a interview with PCWorld earlier this week, HP's director of strategic alliances Josh Peterson indicated that, after comparing notes with Microsoft, any new DVD format must include the feature.

"Based on that discussion and technical reviews, we decided iHD is a must, if you will, for the PC implementation of next-generation optical discs," he said.

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