By now you’ve read about Warner Bros. Entertainment announcement to drop HD DVD and focus on Blu-ray, a Sony Corp. backed technology vs. rival Toshiba. Warner was the last major studio to put out movies in both formats and after May they will exclusively release on Blu-ray.
The announcement by Warner rattled the industry nerves to the point that the N.A. HD DVD Promotional Group (which included Intel and Microsoft) canceled a major media event. Who would blame them? It’s not the kind of exciting news for what’s to come in 2008!
I predicted Sony would not allow the “Betamax” struggle to repeat and that Blu-ray would prevail (HERE). No need to bore you with the technology advantages of each format. Ironically HD DVD has better interactivity today than Blu-ray, but that will evolve with BD Live. I also observed evidence of a move of desperation during the holiday season when Toshiba HD DVD players flooded the market at $179.99. Then Sony countered and jumped on the price discounting wagon with their BDP-S300 (entry level player) at Costco for $278.99 after a $100 rebate. A $100 premium and never mind it didn’t support 7.1 audio.
So what will Microsoft do now? Speaking to Reuters, Albert Penello, group marketing manager for Xbox hardware, said in response to a question about Microsoft possibly supporting a Blu-ray accessory if HD DVD failed that they would consider it. According to Engadget during holiday ’07 consumers purchased 92K HD DVD players for the xBox 360. I believe Microsoft really wants the market to shift to digital download (aligns with xBox 360 content download service and their xBox 360 IPTV directions) and the format war was likely viewed as a gift which stalled adoption, create consumer confusion while digital download services improve.
What is really important to most consumers is that the Warner announcement translates to the release of more movies which we want to watch (rent/buy) in stunning hi-def. Now that the format battle is over I can plan on the Blu-ray release of Lord of the Rings (LOTR). New Line (parent Time-Warner) will make this happen in ’08.
And if all this wasn’t enough good news for the week, Sony demoed at CES the “next generation” of portable cinema viewing. Samples of Blu-ray movies were successfully copied from a PlayStation 3 Blu-ray drive to a PlayStation Portable’s memory stick, as part of Sony’s new web-oriented service/approach to interactivity and play anywhere portability known as BD Live. Other abilities include ring tone downloading and other media content to a BD Live media player. One issue is that current Blu-ray players in the market (including the PS3) do not support BD-Live, but Sony confirmed the PS3 firmware update will be rolling out as early as this month to incorporate BD-Live playback into the system.
Now if Universal and Paramount can see that it makes sense (or is that $cents) to move to Blu-ray we’d be all set for a great hi-def year!