So it would appear that the long and bloody war between the next-generation of high definition DVD formats is coming to a close, with word on the grapevine suggesting that the HD DVD commander-in-chief Toshiba is ready to surrender. While there will be the inevitable continuation of small skirmishes, mainly amongst geeks in both technology and home entertainment camps, the consumer should be greeting this news with open arms. After all, we have pretty much had enough after a couple of years of not knowing which format to buy, not knowing which format will be, for all intents and purposes, a dead duck in another couple of years. The news that Toshiba is, according to a 'company source' reported by the Reuters agency, planning to axe its HD DVD format line-up effectively puts and end to the final battle and leaves Blu-ray the undisputed victors.
The decisive battles in this war would appear to have been getting both Hollywood (especially Warner Brothers which defected from HD DVD in January, bringing its movie library to Blu-ray) and Wal-Mart to support the Blu-ray camp, a crushing blow from which HD DVD stood little chance of recovery. The majority of consumers who had taken the plunge and invested in one camp or another seem to have sided with Blu-ray as well. So in addition to the format commanding some 70 percent of the Hollywood movie titles out there, when it came to hardware player sales it was almost a clean sweep. The NPD Group reported that Blu-ray had 93 percent of such sales for the week after that Warner Brother defection news broke, and BCN reports that for the final quarter of 2007 in Japan Blu-ray had 96 percent of the market.
Shareholders in both of the main sides in this tech war are rejoicing, with Blu-ray heroes Sony seeing a 1 percent gain and perhaps surprisingly seeing as they are on the 'losing side' Toshiba jumping by 6 percent. Investment analysts are suggesting that this is as a result of shareholders considering it the right move for Toshiba to cut their losses and concentrate on parts of the business that are not bleeding money. Not that a decision to scrap HD DVD will come cheap, as Japanese broadcaster NKH reports it will have to scrap production of hardware at a cost of 'hundreds of millions' of dollars.
The big winner, however, is us: the general movie buying public. We can now start to invest in high definition movies and kick start the next generation DVD home entertainment market which has been a casualty of the long format war.
The only winner is the Sony marketing department.
For the consumer a normal DVD is quite good enough, he doesn't need or (in most cases) want to spend €500+ for a BluRay player when he can get a DVD player for under €100 that has similar functionality, or to pay €60+ for a BluRay disc when he can get a DVD for €10-20 (depending on the content).
With no more competition to remove from the market, BluRay can now raise prices through the roof, and with the movie distribution companies on board we'll soon find that DVD releases are going to be either delayed past the BluRay release, get far more expensive, or get scrapped altogether.
The extra profit margin on BluRay discs and players is far too lucrative to pass up...
In effect we're going to see the same thing that happened when audio CDs became standardised, or VHS tapes (Betamax in the US).
The availabillity of the "old" media will evaporate rapidly while the new media will be marketed as being "temporarilly" more expensive to recover development cost, a "temporary" that will last 10-20 years (when CDs were introduced the "promise" was that they'd cost the same as vinyl records within 5 years, it's now 20 years later and they still cost over twice (for new releases) what new vinyl releases cost).