Rory Cellan-Jones

HD-DVD - They think it's all over

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 18 Feb 08, 15:18 GMT

The message from Japan this morning is that the HD format war isn't over - Toshiba says "We are currently assessing our business strategies, but nothing has been decided at this moment." But you'll struggle to find anyone in the business who believes that HD-DVD players will still be coming off the production lines six months from now.

HD-DVD logoFirst, the movie studios moved decisively into the Blu-Ray camp, then giant American retailers like Wal-Mart followed suit. You can still get HD-DVD players in some stores and online. But the prices tell their own story. On Amazon today you can buy what looks like quite a high-spec player for just £117.99 with two movies chucked in. Bearing in mind that you could have paid four times as much a year ago, it looks like the fire-sale is starting.

For all those who've invested billions in getting both HD formats off the ground the end will come as a relief. Even Toshiba will able to refocus its business and stop pouring money down the drain - and its shares have risen today in anticipation of the lifting of the HD-DVD burden.

Sony will be celebrating and preparing a marketing blitz for Blu-Ray. But it may not reap the same rewards as its opponents in the VHS v Betamax battle of the early 1980s. For nearly two decades VHS was the only medium for recording and watching television. But Blu-Ray will have fierce competition from the online alternatives. Right now, few people have the bandwidth or storage to make downloading an HD movie an attractive option, but that will change.

The real losers though are those who have bought an HD-DVD player. Sure, they will be able to continue playing the discs they've already acquired and old DVDs. But they may choose instead to put the machine in the loft and wait for it to become a valuable antique.


  • 1.
  • At 04:14 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Thomas Brownlee wrote:

I am not a Blu-ray supporter, I only buy Blu-ray movies because I have a PlayStation 3 and it's a standard feature. A single format, though, is better for consumers, it means we can have all movies with no danger of it being on the rival format. That said, HD DVD owners will still enjoy the current (very strong) library of HD DVDs on their players (and will probably be able to pick up a load of cheap discs in the process).

I also believe that digital distribution is more than 10 years off, Rory, the infrastructure just isn't in place yet - and I couldn't be happier, I like owning physical products. I think the BDA stand to make a fortune as more and more people buy HDTVs.

My TV is Toshiba, so I do hope Toshiba are both offered a place on the BDA and do make a Blu-ray player. Their electronics are both high quality and affordable and it would be a boost in general.

  • 2.
  • At 04:32 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Davey wrote:

How durable is the media going to be? Even audio CDs develop "pinhole" type corrosion after a few years - the aluminising corrodes. Vinyl records do not have this problem and whilst they may wear out if played repeatedly, at least they do not self destruct. When CDs were first launched they were allegedly going to last for 100 years. Possibly they would if they were metallised with gold. The extremely short shelf life of modern storage media would seem to suggest that in a few hundred years time there will be very little history remaining of modern times.

  • 3.
  • At 04:35 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • nobody wrote:

HD dvd still playes dvd's upscaled. What makes you think blu ray is going to be the next benchmark. I think downlaods will be the way of the future.

I can speak from what i personally see - I know none of our clients who owns or wishes to busy HD-DVD. Although I know a few, who either own or waiting for the prices to drop to buy a Blu-Ray drive.

Toshiba may be saying that it is not over yet, but it does not sound serious to me.


Vlad Mayzel, op. manager
604-GET-HELP On-Site Computer Services

  • 5.
  • At 05:27 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • FDC wrote:

Hey - don't get rid of HD DVD. Open the technology to the open source community. Together, we'll make it better than Blu Ray.

BTW: It's nice to see that Sony learned from their Beta mess.

  • 6.
  • At 06:01 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Troy Trip wrote:

I own both a Toshiba HD unit and a Sony PS3. I have had more problems with my HD player in that movies (HD format) stop playing and you have to remove the disk and restart it. I have never had this problem with Blu-ray. My Toshiba unit is totally up to date with firmware.

I am glad to see the race coming to an end and that there will be one high definition type.

I thank Toshiba for their leadership in all this but the best man/company is winning with a superior piece of hardware with Sony's and Samsung's blu-ray players.

  • 7.
  • At 06:54 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Andy wrote:

I purchased a HD-DVD just before Christmas one of the new models, I have it set to 720p on my Toshiba WLT66 and both HD DVD and normal DVD look great. Yes the HD-DVD disks look better, but you have to play both one after the other to see the difference and compared to my 6 month old Toshiba DVD Hard disk recorder the picture is stunning, and plays even scratched rental disks without complaint.

I am a Toshiba fan so its a shame, but I will get more life out of my player with standards DVD's for the forseeable future. Lastly I liked HD-DVD because they were not reqion encoded. Not sure if Toshiba will let it die, they may market it as a data storage medium instead. Just my thoughts.

  • 8.
  • At 07:08 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Pablo wrote:

This is great news, now the digital transition will be easier for the industry to orient and show average consumers what really hi-def is all about,instead of confusing them with a stupid format war. And about digital downloads for my expirence is still light years away from the sound and resolution quality of a blu-ray disc.

  • 9.
  • At 07:47 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Jez wrote:

Why has the next generation dvd format been decided by something that is incomplete??

I dont want a playstation 3 simple as that

I cannot buy a blu ray player now because in 6 months or so it wont play the discs correctly! it will play the film but none of the extras?? I now have to wait for sony to get there act together with the new profile 2.0 thingy before i can (if i want to) by a blu ray player

It's a shame that it has ended this way all the features coming on a blu ray disc pip/web enable are already on HD DVD!

Ive not lost anything for getting a hddvd player because it will still upscale regular dvd to near hd quality ive still got over 900 movies to choose from which will be going dirt cheep now

COME ON JVC JUMP SHIP WITH TOSHIBA and kill the format from sony you done it before now do it again!

  • 10.
  • At 07:49 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Nick Berry wrote:

Toshiba should have made more effort to bundle an hd-dvd drive with the xbox 360. When I bought my PS3 I wasn't fussed about the prospect of watching hi def film and would not have paid extra. However after I got the PS3 and played a blu-ray film I loved it and have bought many since. Having said this however the price of blu-ray films needs to come down because I cannot as yet afford to only buy new releases on blu-ray as I would like to

  • 11.
  • At 08:33 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Thomas Brownlee wrote:

Davey - While there's no way to know exact shelf life, all Blu-ray discs are hard coated to (opefully) make them resistant to both scratches and corrosion.

Initially, there was a batch of Blu-ray discs that did suffer from corroding when the first movie on a 50GB disc was made, but this is distant past now.

Blu-ray discs have been put through hell for testing and they definitely seem to hold up (even with sandpaper, apparently). I'm in work and sadly can't look up the link.

  • 12.
  • At 08:39 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Thomas Brownlee wrote:

"HD dvd still playes dvd's upscaled. What makes you think blu ray is going to be the next benchmark. I think downlaods will be the way of the future."

Downloads are all well and good, but not everyone has superfast connections and even HD downloads are still lower quality that their disc based counter parts.

My download speed tops out at around 7Mb and with the number of movies I have bought on Blu-ray, it's just not a viable alternative (especially with most of these download services being rental only). For people like myself, who watch movies over and over again and like to have them readily available, downloading just is not an option.

Re: the longevity of CDs. The aluminium corrosion in SOME CDs is due to them be faulty discs (although I don't know what your chances are of getting them replaced). The aluminium should be totally encased in the plastic, so that the air cannot get to it and corrode the disc. My oldest CDs, which are well over 10 years old still work perfectly, and I have heard of much older discs also being fine.

Re: high def. I'm sticking to standard DVDs. They're perfectly fine for my purposes. The best improvement to the format would be getting rid of unskippable items. If I'm the one who paid money for the DVD the last thing I want is to have to sit through a copyright notice, long menu introduction or trailer EVERY TIME I watch it.

  • 14.
  • At 08:55 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Chris wrote:

As an owner of a HD DVD player, I am very happy with my purchase even though I paid £250 for my player, unlike some American Blu-ray player owners who are currently sueing because their Blu-ray players are allegedly defective.
HD DVD currently has some 300 or so titles available on it and they are reasonably priced at around £14 per disc, whereas blu-ray is about £25.
I do find it a little over the top though, that on a regular basis, there seem to be rogue unsubstantiated reports, which even Toshiba denied today, of the demise of HD DVD with the Blu-ray Backers claiming victory almost every week!
As for what will happen, I don't know, if Blu-ray wins, it's not going to pursuade me to drop HD DVD and all the movies I've bought just to re-purchase them on Blu-ray, far from it, while the price is low on HD DVD I as a consumer intend to take full advantage and buy as many Hi-Def films as I can on HD DVD.
If in a few months Blu-ray wins I will not be going straight out to buy a Player and then going on a shopping spree, I will probably wait 2-3 years until the price drops to what HD DVD is now (if that happens at all)and then I will go and buy a Hybrid player (yes there are HD DVD/Blu-ray combo players on the market), if however the price remains as it is (which is what I've come to expect from Sony) I will probably continue to buy DVD's and just watch them on my HD DVD player upscaled to 1080i.
However in the short term this wild weekend just seems like another run of the mill "end the format war now" chant from the Blu-ray backers, probably because HD DVD sold out all accross the USA last week with the massive price cuts on HD DVD player, and from speaking to my friend in the USA today, a Blu-ray disc currently will set you back $40 whereas a HD DVD disc only costs $10. With a price difference like that, I can understand why the Blu-ray camp want this over quick!

  • 15.
  • At 09:20 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Rob Gilfoyle wrote:

Toshiba will be well served to bin the HD-DVD format and save themselves a lot of time, money and trouble in the process.
Opting instead to throw their considerable weight behind the further development of Blu-Ray.
They should also encourage Universal and Paramount to follow the Warner Bros decision.
My surprise is that Microsoft backed the HD-DVD format. What was their rationale behind the decision? Surely a format that offers almost 20Gb more data capacity is a 'no-brainer'? Or have they changed their stance since recent events?
It will certainly be the final nail in the coffin for HD-DVD if they do.

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