February 19, 2008

HD DVD format war over

I'm quoting this direct from the BBC News website, but it's now being reported everywhere: the HD DVD format war is officially over, and the winner is Sony's Blu-ray.

Toshiba drops out of HD DVD war
Toshiba has said it will stop making its high definition DVDs, ending a battle with rival format Blu-ray over which would be the industry standard.
Following a review of its business, Toshiba said it would stop production of HD DVD players and recorders.

The HD DVD format has suffered as major US film studios backed the Blu-ray format, which is being developed by electronics firm Sony and partners.

Analysts said the move would allow Toshiba to focus on other products.

The company's shares have climbed on optimism it would drop HD DVD production.

"We concluded that a swift decision would be best," Toshiba president Atsutoshi Nishida said.

The final nail in the proverbial coffin was the decision by Warner Bros. to get off the fence and sidle up with Sony; other studios quickly followed suit and it was really just a matter of time.

What this does mean is that public confusion over which HD DVD format to invest in will now be ended. More HD devices will be sold, the price will come down, recorders will hit the European high streets and the whole DVD market will shift towards HD. It won't be overnight, but it will be accelerated now.

And that can only be good for HD TV services, though I fear it's going to be a long haul. I spent Sunday afternoon configuring a Samsung TV for some friends who thought they now had HD services, whereas in fact they just have Sky's Freesat service and an HD ready TV. These are not ignorant people (far from it: they're both leading academics) but it just goes to demonstrate how inaccurate the general public's perception of what constitutes "high definition" TV is in the UK. It's HD-Ready, therefore when it's plugged in it's HD? I don't think so. What's more, the morons who sold them the TV didn't seem to know otherwise. Sky's marketing of its HD service doesn't really educate the uninitiated either, which means that (I fear) HD will remain a minority interest (much like 5.1 sound) for the vast majority.

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