New Blu-ray standards obsolete early adopters

Early adopters are always advised that being cutting edge comes with risks such as bugs or complete hardware and software obsolescence. Now Blu-ray supporters are facing the forewarned risks.

The Blu-ray Disc Association has mandated that all players of the format released after October 31 must support BD Java, a programming language for Blu-ray Disc media used mainly to deliver picture-in-picture for in-movie commentary and special features.

"Blu-ray player requirements and BD-Java specifications have been gradually changed over and over again, which has caused a good amount of grief for player manufacturers," said optical storage analyst Wesley Novack. "The new specification and requirements will ensure that all Blu-ray players manufactured past October will be able to support the full range of BD-Java capabilities, including picture in picture and more."

But current Blu-ray players won't face complete obsolescence. A firmware update may solve the problem for some players, although Blu-ray players are not required to have Ethernet ports for firmware updates. Blu-ray players that don't support firmware updating won't be able to utilize the new features, but the discs will play normally.

The most important feature of the new standards is picture in picture has already been featured in two movies, "Descent" and "Crank" but through a work around. Inelegantly, the movie was stored twice on the 50 GB Blu-ray disk. One normal version while the other had the picture-in-picture commentary hard-encoded on top of the film.

On the other hand, HD-DVD players are required to have Ethernet ports for firmware updates, and they are mandated to support HDi, an XML-based format developed by Microsoft and Toshiba, which enables picture-in-picture special features to run alongside the feature length film.

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