|That’s all, folks: it’s safe to stick your head above the technological parapet. The next-generation DVD format war is officially over.With the news this week that Toshiba was raising the white flag of surrender for its preferred format, HD-DVD, the victory for rival disc Blu-ray was complete.In truth, the rot set in some time ago, but the pace of HD-DVD’s demise accelerated dramatically and irreversibly when Warner Bros announced in January that it would only be releasing DVDs on Blu-ray.Support for HD-DVD began to fall, with US firms such as Netflix, Wal Mart and Best Buy throwing their weight behind Blu-ray.
It’s a sweet victory for the Sony-backed Blu-ray format. Sony’s technically superior Betamax video format lost out to JVC-backed VHS when those formats went head to head in the 1980s.
The battle between HD-DVD – backed by Toshiba and Microsoft, and ultimately just two film studios, Paramount and Universal – and Blu-ray – championed by Sony, Dell, HP, Philips and most of Hollywood’s major movie makers – has been rumbling on for about two years. Sales of standalone Blu-ray and HD-DVD players have been relatively low, with only early adopters willing to hedge their bets and part with their cash on technology that could soon become obsolete.
Most ordinary consumers’ only contact with the next-generation formats has been through games consoles – Sony’s PlayStation 3 has a built-in Blu-ray player, while users of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 have been able to buy an HD-DVD player for their console.
Sony’s decision to incorporate Blu-ray playback into the PS3 is thought to have been a decisive factor in the format emerging victorious. According to industry statistics, 3.2 million PlayStation 3 consoles have been sold in Europe, plus 34,000 standalone Blu-ray players. But only 55,000 HD-DVD players, including the HD-DVD player add-on for the Xbox 360, have been sold in Europe. And once several big film studios began to release their films solely in Blu-ray, HD-DVD was always going to be on the losing side.
Interestingly, despite Apple giving its backing to the Blu-ray format, it has yet to produce a single computer with a Blu-ray drive. Instead, Apple seems to be concentrating on movies delivered across the internet, through iTunes and the new Apple TV, rather than on physical discs.
So although Blu-ray has won this battle, it may not have won the war. As home internet speeds become faster and consumers get used to video on-demand services, the movie market could undergo a similar change to the music sector, with films downloaded rather than physically bought.
This article was published by The Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/) in February 2008. The article discusses the ‘format war’ between Blu-ray and HD-DVD. We posted it to our site in the hopes of preserving its online presence.
Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/connected/main.jhtml?xml=/connected/2008/02/23/dlclaud123.xml (Dead link; post no longer live as of December 2008)