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The Best Products to Come in Second Place

Betamax loses alpha status
A legendary tale of superiority losing its quest for market dominance is the oft-revisited battle between VHS and Betamax.

The former was pioneered by JVC, the latter by Sony (SNE - Get Report).

Much like the later battle between HD DVD and Blu-ray, the late 1970s saw the formats competing for market share (along with a long list of other technologies that never gained traction).

VHS had one advantage over Betamax -- a longer recording time per cassettes -- while Betamax had objectively superior image quality. The problem for Sony is that consumers cared more about tape length. As home recording became more popular, the one-hour max recording time didn't offer enough space. The typical running time of most films made the better-looking, but far too short recordings of Betamax problematic, especially as the video rental market developed.

And then there was porn. Sony, in a decision it may regret, locked itself out of the lucrative market for X-rated fare by refusing to allow pornography to be sold on its format.

By 1988, Sony started inching toward VHS and in 2002 stopped production on Betamax.

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