Universal Studios Home Entertainment is betting that interactivity will boost HD DVD in its next-gen battle against Blu-ray, with the studio planning to release three major titles in 2007 with web-connected features.
While no HD DVD-supporting studios have yet taken advantage of the Ethernet capabilities found on all Toshiba first- and second-gen HD DVD players, that is due to change by year's end, when Universal will unveil three, as-yet-announced releases to take advantage of the format's web connectivity.
The news came courtesy of Kevin Collins, Microsoft's director of HD DVD evangelism, who outlined the studio's plans to Video Business. Microsoft, Toshiba and Universal have been the primary backers of the HD DVD format since it's launch last year.
"We are still scratching the surface of what we are capable of doing, but Universal is leading the format in terms of exploring all the different aspects that are out there now," said Collins. "By the holidays, there will be a lot more features."
To date, Blu-ray titles have featured relatively little interactivity, as its BD-Java technology is still being tweaked for implementation on future titles. Of course that hasn't stopped Blu-ray from taking the sales lead over HD DVD over the last two months, following the introduction of the Blu-ray enabled PS3 and a steady stream of new disc releases.
Hoping to reverse the trend, Universal will continue to promote existing HDi-based interactivity in the form of its "U-Control" feature on two key upcoming HD DVD titles, 'Children of Men,' due March 20, and 'Smokin' Aces,' which streets April 17. The studio promises features even more advanced than those seen on earlier "U-Control" titles such as last September's 'The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift.'
On 'Children of Men,' viewers get a chance to see the film’s featured video billboard advertisements in their entirety, with the HD DVD allowing users to click on each of the approximately ten billboards and watch the complete ads.
'Smokin' Aces,' meanwhile, will integrate Google Earth to identify specific locations of assassins during the film.
We'll keep you posted as Universal's HD DVD plans continue to heat up throughout the rest of the year.
A complete list of all currently-announced Universal titles can be found in our HD DVD Release Schedule. Stay tuned...