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Old 02-19-2008   #1
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Default Toshiba Finally Pulls Plug on HD DVD Format

Seemingly the only people who couldn’t see this coming after Warner Bros.' “Blu-Friday” announcement was Toshiba, who in a post Consumer Electronics Show press release said they would continue to fight on in the HD disc format war. Today, only a little more than a month after those supposed fighting words, Toshiba pulled the plug on the HD DVD project, leaving early adopters and loyalists to the format stinging with betrayal. They did little other than run a multi-million dollar Super Bowl TV ad and slash already low prices on players to keep their format afloat in their most troubled times.

As recently as this past December, HD DVD had the upper hand in the consumer-unfriendly HD disc format war when they slashed the prices of their players. As soon as word hit the enthusiast forums, 90,000 units sold out nationwide in a matter of a day or two. These players would certainly yield software sales, and were half or less than the price of a Blu-ray player. HD DVD had the lead but that lead didn’t last long. Sony was surging with success with their now-profitable Playstation3 Blu-ray-based game console. HDTVs were selling like hotcakes and the tides quickly turned.

Warner Bros. suggested they were upset at “consumer confusion,” however the studio most responsible for fueling such confusion by releasing discs on both sides put their support up for sale. HD DVD, with the better name, the cheaper players and head of steam came in and made their offer. Sony, still sore from the days of VHS and Beta, came in and blew their offer absolutely out of the water. And this one move decapitated the HD DVD movement only days before the Consumer Electronics trade show. Their booth was like a morgue while Blu-ray’s booth only a few paces away and down a few stairs was packed. The media noticed. CNN.com even pronounced Blu-ray the winner during the show.

HD DVD could have been saved in a way that would have allowed it to coexist with Blu-ray as Xbox 360 does with Playstation, but Microsoft and Toshiba would have had to ante up more than a billion dollars to start buying studio support. There were serious rumors this was going to happen in early 2008. Even the mighty Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett was supposed to step in (note: Buffett is very close with Bill Gates thus the tie to the HD DVD camp) but that never materialized. In fact, nothing of significance materialized and the likes of Netflix and Best Buy jumped off the bandwagon.

The moral of the story, and this story has a long way to go with DVD still being the standard for home video entertainment and downloadable HD media only weeks away from the market, is consumers do not want AV format wars under any circumstances. No matter how bitter an electronics company gets, they must remember that the consumer has been burned one too many times with Beta machines, SACD or DVD-Audio players and now HD DVD units. All a waste of money for the mainstream consumer. If a new audio or video format is going to make its way to market it needs widespread content and technical support. Without that, consumers will sit on the sidelines. While I pray that the big boys overseas understand this as I type, I fear they will not. For now, Sony, Panasonic and the Blu-ray studios should enjoy their victory as the battle will rage on with downloads sooner than they know.

by: Jerry Del Colliano
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