Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Volume 3, Number 9: The End of Format War II

(NOTES: I originally posted this entry on February 19, 2008, on my Yahoo! GeoCities blog. If you're wondering what the heck I mean by "Format War II," that's because there was another "war" take took place in the early 1980s between two formats of videotape: JVC's VHS and Sony's Betamax.)

Toshiba has conceded defeat in the high-definition DVD war, and I am glad it didn't drag on for too long.

Personally, I now know that when I get my high-definition TV, either later this year or early next year, I should also get a Blu-Ray DVD player at that point as well. Further down the road, I would love to get a Blu-Ray DVD recorder (like, for example, when Turner Classic Movies becomes available in HD, it would be fantastic to be able to record their movies directly onto a Blu-Ray DVD).

"The trend became decisive I think this year," said Kazuharu Miura, an analyst at Daiwa Institute of Research in Tokyo. "When Warner (Bros.) made its decision (to back the Blu-Ray format), it was basically over."

You may be wondering why the decision by Warner Bros. was so much more critical than the earlier ones by Walt Disney, 20th Century Fox and other major studios. I am speculating here, but I believe the reason is that a little over a year ago, WB had been working on ways to support both formats; one was a disc that had both Blu-Ray and HD DVD content on it, called Total DVD; another was a dual-laser disc drive that could read either format. By throwing its support behind Blu-Ray, WB has abandoned any and all "format neutral" projects.

The end of the format war means that about a million people that picked the HD DVD format have been screwed. (Thank goodness I'm not one of them. I digress here, but I keep my priorities in the following order: First, it's pointless to get the Blu-Ray player until I get the HDTV; second, I've decided that I won't get the HDTV until my cable provider carries more of my favorite channels in the HD format.)

But what I really care about is the consolidation of resources towards the winning format, and that will help prices on Blu-Ray players fall. Why? Various companies will no longer spend big bucks promoting their side of the format war over the other. I know, prices on electronic items fall anyway, and I'm definitely not rushing out to get a Blu-Ray player or Blu-Ray discs right this minute, but my point is, companies like Panasonic and Sony had to account for the format war when figuring out how to price their DVD players.

That's right--the continuation of the format war would have meant more money being wasted on the wrong format, which in turn would have led to higher prices to consumers on Blu-Ray hardware and discs. You've got to salute Toshiba for throwing in the towel on this one.

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