QuickJump QuickPeek special edition: a format war history in hi-definition

QuickJump QuickPeek special edition: Blu-ray HD DVD format wars, an editorial retrospective - Image 1The first HD DVD and Blu-ray format discs were released back in 2006. Since then it’s been a long and grueling war. Both sides have dished out and taken hits, and for a while there, some thought the format war would end in a stalemate. However, the HD DVD camp started losing backers in the last few months, a movement that probably started when Warner Bros. decided to go Blu-ray exclusive. Now, HD DVD has lost one of its biggest supporters, Toshiba, signaling what may be the end of the war. Read the full article to recap some of the biggest events that led to this point in the format war.

Originally posted on February 20, 2008 at 1:34 p.m.

 QuickJump QuickPeek special edition: Blu-ray HD DVD format wars, an editorial retrospective - Image 1

It’s been a long and grueling war between the hi-def formats. Both the Blu-ray camp and the HD DVD camp gave and took hits, but it seems the format war may finally see its end as Toshiba, one of the major players in the war, has withdrawn support for the HD DVD camp.

During the previous months, the HD DVD camp has had a series of losses, a movement which probably started when Warner Bros. decided to go Blu-ray exclusive. The war may end soon, but for now let’s take a look back and see how the war escalated to this level.

Both formats were released back in 2006 and played an important role in the console war as well. Analyst Michael Pachter predicted that the winner of the format war will decide the winner of the console war as well.

By mid-2007, it felt like the Blu-ray format was winning: Toshiba’s HD DVD sales weren’t performing as well as expected, while Target – the second largest retail outlet in the US – and Blockbuster decided to go Blu-ray (Blockbuster being exclusively Blu-ray).

But in August of that same year, HD DVD reached into its sleeve and took out an ace, announcing that Paramount and Dreamworks will be going HD DVD exclusive. This deal brought major movies like “Transformers” and “Shrek the Third” appearing on HD DVD, keeping the format well within the hearts of consumers.

Such was the announcement that talks of a stalemate between the two formats started up. Toshiba’s Mike Eves said the two formats will exist together rather than one format winning out. However, analysts believed that the stalemate would be over by 2008.

Format war drawing to a close? - Image 1 

Then, right at the beginning of 2008, Warner Bros. Entertainment announced its decision to go Blu-ray exclusive. Sony stocks rose while Toshiba’s fell after this announcement. A week after this announcement, Blu-ray hardware dominated 90% of the market share.

The news racked the industry and a huge wave of other media companies followed suit like Woolworths, National Geographic, Netflix and Best Buy, and just recently, Wal-Mart.

While Toshiba gave its continued support, it and Microsoft remained as the largest backers of the HD DVD format. Soon after Wal-Mart’s announcement, a spokesperson for Toshiba made a statement that may suggested that they may reconsider their position.

The day after the spokesperson made this statement, an insider told Reuters that Toshiba will be giving up the format soon. The source went on to say that Toshiba was in its final stages of planning to give up the format.

At this point, the fate of HD DVD possibly hinged with Toshiba. Should Toshiba decide to go Blu-ray, that would leave Microsoft as the format’s largest spearhead. And as big as Microsoft is, keeping a format afloat by itself is a tall order. However, word surfaced that even Microsoft is planning to withdraw its support for the format.

Insiders say that Microsoft even plans to go over to the Blu-ray camp. They say that Microsoft is putting together a standalone Blu-ray player, while other people think they could release an external Blu-ray add-on for the Xbox 360 much like how they decided to release the external HD DVD player.

The rumor even goes so far as to say that Microsoft will be making a built-in Blu-ray player for the console (which is far more than what it was willing to do for the HD DVD format so this sounds a little too incredulous – but at this point, who knows?).

Format War on hi-def: Blu-ray versus HD DVD - Image 1

Just recently, Toshiba has finally made an official announcement saying that they have given up the format. In doing so, they are expected to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in withdrawing their support for the format.

Given Toshiba’s decision, some are now led to concur that the disc manufacturing company likely sealed the coffin of HD DVD. Universal Studios made the switch to Blu-ray not long after Toshiba’s announcement; remaining HD DVD supporters may soon follow suit.

The HD DVD camp may have another ace up its sleeve, but considering the odds of how things have been going, even more people believe it’s highly unlikely: with Toshiba’s support withdrawn, we could probably expect the format to be phased out completely soon after.

So it looks like we have just witnessed the end of the war, but the story isn’t over yet. It remains to be seen how this would affect the console war between the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. You can bet it will have repercussions.

Michael Pachter and other analysts have already given their forecasts, saying that consumers now have a clear path towards the PlayStation 3. However, some believe that the end of the format war won’t affect the Xbox 360 at all.

Rumors speculate that Microsoft will choose to adopt Blu-ray, but Pachter believes that this won’t happen. Only time will tell what kind of waves the end of the format war will have on the future of the consoles.

We’ll keep you posted on developments, but for now, this is where the format war stands.

Originally posted on February 20, 2008 at 1:34 p.m.

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