Right from its launch, Dolby has made no secret of the fact that it sees a business for its Atmos immersive audio (IA) technology beyond the cinema. Part of the grand plan was just revealed at the Mobile World Congress currently underway in Barcelona – and it is a very different path from that of rival Auro. Put it this way, DON’T hold your breath for Pioneer to come out with a Dolby Atmos home cinema amplifier but DO expect Samsung’s Galaxy 6/7 to feature AtmosM.
Everyone knows by now that Dolby and Barco are locked into a struggle about who will dominate the next generation of digital audio in cinemas, with the object-based Atmos fighting against the 11.1 Auro. So far the fight has largely gone Dolby’s way, with Atmos screens outnumbering Auro by a factor of 4 to 1, though with some countries such as India being more inclined to embrace Auro.
With Dolby in full control of the Atmos technology and patents, they can afford to bide their time a bit more and build up a larger footprint (earprint?) in cinemas. Particularly following the deal to acquire Doremi, which will help them expand and disadvantage Barco/Auro. Barco, meanwhile, only controls the Auro technology as it relates to cinemas and the patent owners are starting to look at consumer markets such as home cinema and automobiles.
When we asked the question a month ago ‘Has Auro Abandoned Cinema for the Home?‘ we quickly got a response from Auro Technologies saying “we’re happy to confirm that Auro has no plans to step away from the cinema market: quite the contrary in fact. We’re confident that expanding into the consumer market will only strengthen our growing presence in cinema.” The idea is that with more films mixed in Auro 11.1 and seen and heard that way in the home, people will want to experience it the same way in cinemas.
The logic makes some sense, if you consider that consumers who chose Dolby 5.1 in the home did have a positive influence on demanding the same or better in the cinema. However, it also points to the two-front battle that both Dolby and Barco/Auro are waging in the Immersive Audio War. One is to get take up in cinemas and beyond, the second is to get content owners to make their films, television shows and games mixed and encoded in their flavour of IA. Here both are sparing no effort in snaring the best content and creatives, with both Barco and Auro engaged in not just Hollywood but getting films, mixing facilities, preview theatres, directors and audio engineers in countries such as France, India and China familiarised and equipped with their technology. Content is very much King in this battle.
But when it comes to the consumer, the battle lines are drawn quite different, as we will see.