Blu-ray & HD-DVD hybrid chip unveiled

Many companies are jumping aboard the bandwagon that aims to merge the two archrival next-gen optical disc standards Blu-ray and HD-DVD. A hybrid seems to be the closest thing we’ll get to a unified HD standard so its a valiant goal.

Broadcom is the latest to heave its weight on the wagon proclaiming it’s the first to unleash upon the industry a “… complete system-on-a-chip (SoC) solution that combines both Blu-rayâ„¢ and HD DVD optical disc formats into a highly integrated single-chip design.”

Among those who are already on the bandwagon Ricoh has whipped up a single laser that can read both discs a group of inventors has filed a patent for a DVD/Blu-ray/HD-DVD single disc monstrosity and NEC has told the world it’s mashed up a single chip that can handle both next-gen HD standards.

Yes NEC has been there done that and is outta gum — that would mean Broadcom isn’t the first. Don’t tell or its head might implode with all manner of exotic concepts like facts.

Also supporting DVD and CD media the chip can decode many standards including H.264/AVC VC-1 MPEG-2 Dolby Digital Plus Dolby Tru-HD and DTS-HD.

Unlike NEC Broadcom made no specific mention of a digital copy protection system. The included support for a network interface however makes it possible that the chip uses AACS which is a next-gen form of digital rights management.

The most stringent of the current AACS specifications (PDF) demand an online transaction in order to verify that your media is legitimate before you can use or watch what’s on it.

A dual-standard capable player with such a processor under the hood has potential to pave a way for inexpensive consumer access to both HD-DVD and Blu-ray standards.

In an ideal world this would indeed be the case. But the waging optical war is just starting to heat up and this chip is unlikely to dampen its presence.

One of the spanners in the gears as to why there are exactly naught manufacturers using hybrid chips is cost. Although it may be cheaper to use one hybrid chip as opposed to two separate chips in different players the overall cost of creating such a hybrid machine could end up more expensive.

This is exactly the reason why certain unnamed Taiwan manufacturers are saying they won’t be launching hybrid players any time soon.

Thus there’s seemingly no end to this crazy standards war. In the words of an idealist Slashdot reader “Buy neither. Technology designed by lawyers should not be rewarded.”