SOME PEOPLE have been speculating about Toshiba’s so-called Super-Resolution Technology (SRT) and the “DVD Download DL” logo that has come up recently, as Tosh had registered this with the DVD Forum at their last Steering Committee.
We cornered a Toshiba suit at an event this morning and managed to extract some choice quotes about what’s Tosh’s strategy for this market in the near future, how SRT fits in and what the heck is DVD Download DL.
So here’s the low-down. SRT technology is what we all expected: a SpursEngine stuck in a DVD player that upscales your DVD resolution to something close to (but not quite) 1080p – similar to that Qosmio G55 proposition. The untrained eye is unlikely to tell the difference between this and 1080p HD. We’ve seen some of the upscaling demos and they are quite a bit better than your standard DVD.
For the vast majority of consumers with huge DVD libraries, this would be a Godsend. For those currently investing in Blu-ray, you’ll feel a bit more than annoyed, as you’ve been buying up Blu-ray discs at a premium and… lo and behold, here comes DVD again.
So what’s DVD Download DL? Well, according to our source, “DVD Download DL is about bringing additional movie features that DVD users would see in HD-DVDs, to the DVD player”. In essence, adding value to your pre-existing DVD collection by giving it content from HD discs. Yes. This means that Toshiba will release (Christmas 2008 in Japan is a good guess) an SRT-enabled, web-connected, DVD player that will automatically download extras according to the movie you’re playing. “We believe the future is the internet connection piping down movies to your home” added Mr. Anonymous.
Toshiba is also sponsoring development of the oh-so-important software/middleware that will support the SpursEngine consumer scene – and that would include the SpursEngine Developer’s Forum 2008, that started this Monday – most notable (and recent) of which is CRI Middleware’s deal to create a framework for other developers to… err… develop their own solutions.
So Tosh’s master plan is two-fold. First, they undermine the entire proposition of Blu-ray (and Blu-ray disc sales in particular), and then they skip the format war entirely and dump the whole thing down your fat internet connection. As you can imagine, details are sketchy as to how this will be done. There are a lot of questions to which answers aren’t set in stone at the moment. “We’ll continue to bet on DVD”, said the grinning chappie.
There are a lot of kinks to work out in this plan: regions are a problem, as content differs from region to region, and sometimes even within the same region; On the retail end of business, outside of Japan, Toshiba consumer electronics isn't exactly the first brand you’re looking at to buy as a DVD player; and then comes all the legal/licensing red tape and studio involvement that means getting those extra features to the consumer (ripping them off new Blu-ray discs would be good for starters).
Locally, we hear that Toshiba will be converging its laptop and CE businesses in order to make this possible. This is Europe, you see, and Toshiba isn't a huge player in the CE business. Leveraging it with the laptop business might give it the edge.
Parallel to all this, Toshiba is also striking deals within the PC market to license their SpursEngine technology as a hardware encoding/decoding solution for video editing pros. Leadtek, which presented their SpursEngine-based video editing card at Computex 2008, is one example, but we’re sure there are a lot more to come.
We don’t expect Sony to sit idly by while Toshiba flanks it this hard – Sony also has access to the CBE and is already selling its own cut-down video processing engine. How hard could it be to flip the firmware on the PS3 to do the same upscaling pony trick, even at the expense of Blu-ray sales?
The worst that can happen is this brings down pricing on the Blu-ray faster than Sony’s official marketing plan, meaning the consumer ends up winning all-round.
A big thanks goes out to Nick Trakosas who pointed out the SRT news in the press and fed me some links on the matter. µ
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