Originally Posted by RobertR1
I think we'd all like to hear how Microsoft got involved with HD DVD. Perhaps a trip down memory lane?
Ah, I am saving that for a book we might write one day.... :) Here is the short version. I ask that folks read it as a story and not subject of debate on the merits of our position or my assertions below.
In the normal course of growing our technology for internet streaming, we were in the final stages of designing Windows Media Video 9 (WMV-9) which is the Microsoft version of VC-1. A few of us had the crazy idea of seeing if we could do HD resolution with it even though at the time, big video was quarter SD resolution! Some months later, we were encoding HD content with it, albeit, at 720p since that is all that PCs could decode in software at the time.
Then one of our guys got the idea of using WMV for digital cinema. That pushed the codec design to an extreme, having to perform on 30 foot screens. We redesigned some of the algorithm to improve quality for that application. And our technology became quite popular with independent film makers. At Sundance film festival for example, we were the only digital projection technology.
Some time later, in a private demo to a large studio, they asked why we had not proposed WMV-9 to DVD forum for usage in AOD (original name for HD DVD). We found out that we were already late to the party in that a shoot out was already in progress and results were due shortly (in a couple of weeks from what I recall). We contacted DVD Forum folks asking if we could enter and were told NO.
We looked around and noticed that one of the companies bidding had one of our ex-employees working there. The company was later bought by Dolby and is not in business anymore. But we went ahead and partnered with them and instead of bidding their codec, they bid ours. To everyoneâ€™s surprise, VC-1 finished first even though we had a fraction of the time everyone else had to optimize their encodes. We were challenged to a second competition where we again we finished first.
The above was just the beginning though. The testing was part of the working group. Politically, we did not stand a chance of getting selected at the board level. But a few things helped. First, we agreed to open the specifications for our codec and submitted it to SMPTE (which then named it VC-9 but politics got it renamed to VC-1 later).
Second was the expansion of DVD Forum steering committee membership to include more companies to break the chokehold that BD companies had at the time in DVD Forum, stopping the approval of HD DVD spec. In that re-election (by the entire DVD Forum membership of some 250 companies), we and Disney were elected to the board. That gave us one vote :). But more importantly, gave us a chance to interact with other companies there, letting us make our case better.
Months later, in March of the following year (almost 9 months after the first test), VC-1, together with MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 AVC were selected as mandatory.
Later that year, iHD, the interactivity technology that we had co-designed with Disney, also got approved as mandatory in DVD Forum. As was AACS copy protection group which we had joined the previous year. So we had three important technologies to us in HD DVD. In parallel, we succeeded in getting BDA to also accept VC-1 and AACS but that is for another story :).
Despite better success in DVD Forum than BDA, we stayed neutral as far as our public stance was concerned. Last spring however, BDA selected BD-J over iHD for its interactivity spec, even though its own technical working group had recommended iHD by a majority vote. And further moved to adopt BD+ copy protection, a technology which both DVD Forum and AACS had turned down. Both of these caused major deviation at the software development level, causing us to scrap our ideas to build a single player for both formats. Further issues popped up with some folks claiming that BDA could override some of the provisions in AACS such as managed copy.
We also got concerned that no independent replicators could manufacture BD at the time and that technical challenges remained there, despite 4+ years of development. We worried that BD would be too slow to come to market and too expensive to produce. And hence, it would slow the usage of high-performance PCs for HD playback.
The above led us and Intel to move to support HD DVD and made an announcement to that effect last September.
OK, so it is not so quick to even give the summary :).