Blu-Ray DVD Part 4: To Java or Not to Java
Author: James Russo
Just as compact disc had conquered the domain of vinyl LP records and VHS had decimated its Betamax competition, Blu-Ray DVD was beginning to make great strides in the home electronics world. Although Blu-Ray has yet to completely replace standard definition DVD’s, the format has gone from virtual obscurity to the most sought after home video format since VHS tapes first made their appearance. With the successive release of each new blockbuster movie onto Blu-ray , sales records are repeatedly made and then a few months later shattered.src="http:
Blu-ray DVD, likes its predecessors, has not been without its own set of unique problems. At first, early Blu-Ray DVD manufacturers envisioned a stand alone DVD player which could play Blu-ray DVDs and nothing more. However, when it was announced that Java would be playing apart in the DVD player’s firmware, people began to take notice. Java has been around for several years and was primarily a software which was used on home PC’s to incorporate graphics into web sites.
Java believed that its proprietary software could be successfully incorporated into Blu-Ray DVD players thus by giving the player increased flexibility. Java could have endless uses in the Blu-Ray medium. Java could allow the inclusion of games onto the disc, make it possible to display more complex graphics and interactive menus, as well as the ability to download additional data from the Internet. Surely the latter is something even the highest end standard definition DVD player was never capable of. In fact, the Blu-Ray player would be one of the first pieces of home electronics to have such abilities. The Blu-ray DVD player would essentially be the first media player to be a combination of a DVD player and a personal computer.
The only drawback to such a fusion of technologies is that each piece of technology inherits the problems of the other. The addition of Java Virtual Machine to consumer Blu-ray DVD players was a significant leap forward and a powerful marketing tool for Blu-ray sales, but the addition of Java complicated the construction of Blu-ray players. Each Blu-ray player (and also standard definition DVD players for that matter) all contain a small amount of Random Access Memory (RAM) to display menus and save the place of a stopped DVD movie. The addition of JAVA and internet functionality to Blu-Ray players forced manufacturers to essentially go back to the drawing board and figure out ways to fit in the additional memory needed to perform these functions.
Some higher end players simply included a larger RAM chip into the Blu-ray player chassis. This, however, drove up the price of the unit as well cut down on space inside the player for other features such as the chips and memory need for internet streaming of movies.
Other electronics giants, such as Samsung, developed other solutions to the RAM dilemma. Mimicking a new feature in Windows 7 which allows users to offload some RAM to a USB flash drive, Samsung had released a line of Blu-ray players where additional RAM memory can be added by the consumer simply by plugging in a USB flash drive. This allows the user to insert additional memory and storage needed for BD-Live features without taking up precious space inside of the DVD player’s chassis.
Additional problems arose from the inclusion of Java on Blu-ray DVD’s which were not so readily solved like the flash memory issue. One of the attractions of both VHS tape and DVD’s was the ability to view a film, stop the film, and then return to that film at the point you stopped watching. This was one the major aspects which separated home viewing from the theatrical viewing experience. For Blu- ray DVD’s that contained Java rich content, also known as BD-J DVD’s, this feature would not be feasible on home players.
Only so much RAM can be crammed onto the home player’s small processor chip and Java in a Blu-ray player behaves much the same as Java behaves in a home PC or laptop….the software takes time to load and then begin running. In the case of some Blu- ray DVD’s, the time for Java too load has become longer than many expected and many electronics reviewers have brought attention to these load times in both online and print review of Blu-ray players.
Would these problems just be a passing storm for the Blu-ray DVD era or could they radically affect sales of the infant format ? If the latter, what could the electronics giants who were betting their professional futures on this new format do to change the outcome ? Newer and even more elaborate additions were in the pipeline for Blu-ray DVD, but the electronics companies knew that the players would have the perform beyond expectations if consumers were going to buy one and then be asked to pay higher prices for DVD movies.
With Blu-ray DVD now at a crossroads, how would the competition react and could the new formats drawbacks become solid ammunition that could sway public opinion. Already, cable and satellite providers were shoring up their defenses with more high-definition content in the hopes that consumers would change their mind about Blu-ray DVD and instead stay with on-demand entertainment. Another battle was beginning, but the creators of Blu-ray would still have a few tricks left up their sleeve that could tip the scales of fate back into their favor.