Blu-ray emerges as winner of HD format war
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Tuesday, February 19, 2008 7:27PM EST
Toshiba bowed to business reality and announced it would end its HD DVD product line and cede the field to Sony's Blu-ray disc technology.
"We concluded that a swift decision would be best," Toshiba President Atsutoshi Nishida told reporters Tuesday at his company's Tokyo offices.
Within hours of the announcement, one of the largest technology retailers in Canada said it would be phasing out HD-DVDs from its stores.
Best Buy Canada said that beginning in March, the company would "prominently showcase Blu-ray hardware and software products in its stores." However, it will continue to honour its usual return policy for previously purchased HD-DVD products.
The battle for supremacy in next-generation DVD technology had been fought for several years.
But Nishida said Warner Bros. Entertainment's decision to only release movies in the Blue-ray format made Toshiba's decision inevitable.
"That had tremendous impact," he said. "If we had continued, that would have created problems for consumers, and we simply had no chance to win."
Wal-Mart had also announced on Friday that it would only be selling Blu-ray discs and hardware moving forward. Netflix Inc., the online DVD rental company, said it would stop renting HD DVD titles.
Other major U.S. retailers like Target Corp. and Blockbuster Inc. had made similar decisions.
While Sony has won this battle, consumer technology expert and CTV columnist Kris Abel warned the victory might be short-lived -- and that the fight somewhat pointless.
"I think it was a battle that wasn't really to the benefit of consumers," he told CTV.ca. "It was a battle between these companies over who was going to control what they thought was going to be a lucrative business, but their greed may have ruined that."
A foolish fight
High-definition DVDs are to replace traditional DVDs, which are becoming steadily less profitable as the format ages.
The differences in image quality between the competing HD formats of Sony and Toshiba would be undetectable to an average person simultaneously watching them, Abel said.
However, Sony Blue-ray discs won't play in a Toshiba HD DVD machine and vice versa.
But Abel said there's no reason for that other than greed.
"In late 2005, this was something that both Sony and Toshiba sat down and took a look at," he said.
"There was encouragement from the industry for these two to sit down" and develop a common format, he said, but the talks collapsed in acrimony.
"Obviously the consideration wasn't for the consumers, it wasn't for the format or the industry. It was all about who was going to be in charge of this format and therefore, who was going to collect the greater share of profits."
But even with the format war over, a competitor has already started to emerge.
Apple is now in the movie downloading business in the United States -- and it offers titles in HD, Abel said, adding it will soon be coming to Canada.
Microsoft -- which had supported the HD DVD format -- is also in the movie distribution business through its Xbox gaming and home entertainment console, he said.
Sony's PlayStation 3 console, a major competitor of the Xbox, also works as a Blu-ray player.
Abel said the Toshibas and Sonys would prefer movies to be distributed on a physical disc because they see more profit potential, but as with music, the world is changing.
"It may not be developed to the point where it's viable to the average consumer, but early adopters and home theatre buffs are starting to take a look at it," he said.
Apple announced in January it has already sold seven million movies, he said.
To enjoy high definition, one needs an HD television and a player to view such titles on disc.
Consumers who want to enjoy this new technology will need a major hardware upgrade, Abel said.
With files from The Associated Press