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Next-generation Blu-ray on the horizon

Written by Dave Horvath @ 06 Apr 2004 9:07

Next-generation Blu-ray on the horizon In a recent interview with Andy Parsons, chair of the U.S. promotion committee for the Blu-ray Disc Association, details of the next-gen Blu-ray players were addressed to curb concerns of current Blu-ray player owners. The major topic of discussion was the inclusion of all next-gen Blu-ray players to utilize the BD-Java programming language which will be standard for interactive menus and content on all disks released after October 31, 2007.
Parsons stressed that from day one, all Blu-ray players were built with BD-Java compatability, however most disk publishers have not utilized its functions to its potential. Such noted Blu-ray titles as "Chicken Little" and "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" do currently use BD-Java in their menus as well as provide the user with interactive games. Parsons stated that current Blu-ray owners will not have to worry about next-generation disks which use this format to be any problem for their current generation players.

There are a few other specifications coming to the Blu-ray lineup as well. All players produced after October 31 must meet these requirements.

Specifications of note are the increase in storage to a minimum of 256Mb while BD-Live capable players must have at least 1Gb. BD-Live is an Internet connected service that allows the user to download additional content directly to their Blu-ray player. Additionally, all players must support the picture-in-picture capability, connected through a secondary video stream as well as support for secondary audio for audio mixing. Audio mixing will enable users to enable sounds from within the player to interact with the media's soundtrack.

In contrast, rival HD-DVD already has players on the market with ethernet capabilities, a minimum of 128Mb memory, as well as on-demand picture-in-picture. The on-board memory enables live bookmarks that stay resident in the player even after the disk is ejected. The picture-in-picture function enables users to select director commentaries on-the-fly during the movie which can be activated or de-activated at any time.

Parsons states that these new features "are not make-or-break features. Picture-in-picture is nice for on-screen directory commentaries and the like. But the fundamental functions of a Blu-ray player are already available in existing players". "And," he continues, "your existing Blu-ray player will continue to play future titles as it does today.

Not everything is coming up smelling of roses for early adopters of the format however. Current generation Blu-ray players will not be able to support the on-demand picture-in-picture feature, nor will they be able to connect to the BD-Live service. Hollywood officials say they are working on a system where titles released after the October 31 deadline simply will not show a feature if it detects the player cannot handle it.

There is no word on whether or not Sony's PS3 will support any of these features in the future. Although, technically it has the abilities to connect to BD-Live, Sony has not made any mention of incorporating BD-Live into any of its future firmware releases.

PC World

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