Is the Hi-Def Battle Over or has It Just Intensified?

All evidence points to the fact that the Hi-Def optical disc battle between HD-DVD and Blu-ray is essentially over with Blu-ray the clear victor. But there is too much money in royalties to be won for the HD-DVD camp to just bow out. Sony undoubtedly learned from their failed Beta cassette battle with VHS that content is king and is clearly winning the content game. This is evident by the exclusive backing of a majority of major Hollywood film studios (not to mention the fact that Sony owns one of those major Hollywood studios), the declaration that disc rental and retail outlets like Blockbuster and Target have agreed to carry Blu-ray exclusively in their brink and mortar stores, and even the recent announcement that Netflix, Inc, the online movie rental company, will carry Blu-ray discs exclusively as well.

Netflix previously carried both HD-DVD and Blu-ray discs, but said the decision of four of the six major studios to issue films only in the Blu-ray format made it likely that the Sony format will be the ultimate victor. The momentum seems to be squarely in the Blu-ray camps favor, however the HD-DVD camp, helmed by Toshiba, is not giving up without a fight using the only advantage it has left, price.

Toshiba has lowered the price of all HD-DVD players to as low as $150 plus Microsoft lowered their price significantly for the HD-DVD player attachment for the X-Box 360. Whether this approach will garner any momentum for the flailing HD-DVD camp, it’s hard to say, however the reported sales volume for HD-DVD players vs. Blu-ray players reported narrowed to a statistical dead heat for the week of January 29th, 2008. This could be an aberration or a minor shift in the market due to the price drop which will correct itself once the consumer market realizes the shortage in content, or it could lure some content providers and retailers back into discussions with the HD-DVD camp. Only time will tell, but I for one hope that we either see a true champion emerge soon or a collaboration that will allow each format to play and burn in compatible equipment, much like the agreement reached between the battling DVD-R and DVD+R format. The longer this battle wages, the longer consumers will more likely sit on the sideline and discover a new technology better than both HD-DVD and Blu-ray. Then both parties will loose because they will have spent a fortune developing and marketing a product that never made it into the mainstream consumer market place. Does anyone remember how the DAT was going to revolutionize the audio experience? Of course not because the price was too high for the components and product so a more effective format emerged as the champion known as the Compact Disc. Technology moves fast and waits for no one, if these two warring parties don’t realize that, they may both miss the boat and the riches they are battling over.

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