Magazine article Newsweek

Our 'Can't We All Just Get Along?' Awards

Magazine article Newsweek

Our 'Can't We All Just Get Along?' Awards

Article excerpt

Byline: Steven Levy

Who doesn't love DVDs? They are cheap, ubiquitous and do their job well. One reason for their instant success is that--unlike the initial situation with videocassette tapes--you never have to worry about whether you're buying the "right"-format DVD: all discs play on all players. Now get ready for a shock: the next generation of DVD, engineered to play high-definition movies, just could become another Betamax-VHS train wreck. As if life wasn't confusing enough, you may have to worry whether the high-def movie you buy is a Blu-ray (supported by Sony, Dell and HP) or an HD-DVD (the choice of Toshiba, Microsoft and Intel).

It's one more round in a tired old game where companies put their parochial concerns ahead of the well-being (and sanity) of consumers. All too often, this doesn't work with that, and the reason usually is that that companies exploit incompatibility between products to extend a competitive advantage. Could it be, for instance, that Microsoft's endorsement of HD-DVD has something to do with the fact that Sony's upcoming Play-Station 3 will use Blu-ray--and if that format is a dud, Microsoft's competing Xbox 360 will benefit?

In honor of this venal tradition, let me present the first "This Won't Work With That" awards, honoring self-serving perpetrators of toxic incompatibilities. There are so many to choose from that some really infuriating conflicts won't be included--the Paul Giamattis of incompatibility--so feel free to write in with your most frustrating examples.

Third prize goes to the satellite radio services Sirius and XM. It's a good idea to offer people the opportunity to subscribe to quality, ad-free radio, but a bad idea to have two systems that don't work with each other. If you like Bob Edwards (XM) and Howard Stern (Sirius), tough luck. …

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