The next-generation high-definition optical disc format war is starting to sound like he said/she said argument. Every time I turn around, one camp or the other is claiming a new victory over the other. And, in the end, you don't know who to believe. Last week, I attended Toshiba's summer line show in NYC, and to hear them, HD DVD is a clear winner. On the other hand, and not to be outdone, the Blu-ray group and Sony announced this week that they've taken over Europe (not to mention the U.S). So, it begs the question, is there really a "clear" winner right now in the High-Def optical disc format wars. Each camp cites different unit sales numbers and software sales. This makes me think that they each have about 50-percent of the market.
Warner Home Video (WHV), in their infinite wisdom, announced at this past CES that would be introducing its TotalHD disc, which would have a HD DVD version on one side of the disc and a Blu-ray copy on the other. Well, news came from WHV that their TotalHD disc would be delayed (probably) till the end of the year. Too bad. WHV's goal is to cut down on carrying both titles in their inventory, and on retailer's shelves. It could also move other Studios, who are now in the BD camp, to produce both versions on the same film on a TotalHD disc. What a concept!
Last week, HD DVD was dealt a potential blow by Blockbuster announcing that it would only carry HD DVD titles in its core 250 stores nationwide. The other 1,400+ retail locations would only carry Blu-ray titles. We'll see if this flies over time. This week there came an announcement from Amazon and Microsoft, in which Amazom.com would carry over 1,000 "indie" movie titles in HD DVD sponsored by Microsoft.
Speaking of Microsoft, there are some rumors that keep on coming up that Microsoft is bankrolling Toshiba (and other companies that produce movies) to continue HD DVD. According to this rumor, HD DVD is quickly losing out the BD, but Microsoft doesn't want its arch competitor Sony to dominate the marketplace. So, Microsoft is doing everything in its power to thwart Sony because it all comes down to gaming in the end -- Xbox360 vs. PS3. Is there any truth to this rumor? I don't know, but it makes for interesting speculation.
Personally, I think that after the Holiday 2007 sales figures for hardware and software are tabulated by an independent 3rd party, it will give us an indication if one camp or the other has the lion's share of the market. Of course, it may not be that clear-cut. And, if WHV launches its TotalHD discs, it will clearly muddy the waters completely. What all this means is that it could be a few years before a clear winner to the next-generation optical disc HD format war is declared. And, by that time, there could be a new format (maybe a USB-type driver) on the horizon, or true HD downloads may finally become a reality. And, in the next few years, I expect that we will also be able to seamlessly and wirelessly send HD signals around the home. I can only hope.