Originally, I was going to write a Blog about Wireless HD again and talk about Amimon's video modem technology that was highlighted at CES 2008. However, because of the announcements last week, I think that it more fitting to talk about the demise of HD DVD. Last week was a bad week for HD DVD as the format and Toshiba took some devastating blows. These blows were so severe that HD DVD was not able to recover. The new of its death came this morning (Feb. 19). This is sad really.
At the beginning of last week, Netflix announced that it would only stock Blu-ray Discs going forward. Then, a few days later, Best Buy announced that it would promote Blu-ray also. While the retailer wasn't abandoning HD DVD, it was putting in the back of the store somewhere. The death knell came from Wal-Mart on Friday as they announced that it would be only stocking Blu-ray going forward.
The Wal-Mart announcement is significant because its one of (if not the biggest) retailer in the U.S. It should also be remembered that Target has already gone Blu-ray last year. At CES 2008, we were all stunned by the announcement from Warner Home Video to release titles in only the Blu-ray format beginning May 2008. By Wal-Mart's pronouncement, it could easily bring the demise of HD DVD much sooner than May. Of course, it doesn't help that major newspapers like The New York Times have also written HD DVD obituary in the context of its story on Wal-Mart.
I am continually reminded of the Format Wars years ago between Beta vs. VHS, in which Matsushita's (Panasonic) VHS format won out over Sony's Betamax videocassette format. At that time, Sony vowed, "Never again." Well, I guess Sony has finally gotten its wish. It was a little more than 10 years ago that Sony and Toshiba were battling over DVD. Sony relented at the time, and Toshiba had the backing of Warner Home Video. Boy, how times have changed. Now, several publications are on what they call a "death watch" for HD DVD
As a product reviewer, I have evaluated both formats. And, here history is repeating itself; the best format does not necessarily win. Years ago, Beta was superior to VHS and lost. Today, I think that HD DVD is superior to Blu-ray. Why do I say that? I say that because of image quality first and foremost. It's what the next-generation optical disc format should be judged on. As the old saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words." In terms of picture quality, HD DVD images are more colorful and robust than Blu-ray. I know people always talk about individual pressing of films. Well, I've been fortunate to receive a lot of content from the movie studios for evaluation. And, I can say unequivically, that HD DVD images look better than Blu-ray (when comparing the same film in both formats).
Now, I know that BD always touts their disc capacity as being superior to HD DVD. This argument may be pertinent for computers (maybe), but every title being released on either format have not really taken advantage of disc capacity. It's a numbers game. It's funny how the same movie can take up the same amount of disc space on either format. Audio is another issue that has always favored HD DVD. From the beginning, HD DVD supported being backwards compatible, and offered the capability of playing CDs. HD DVD also incorporated audio processing for next-generation audio formats such as Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio right in the player so that users could experience those formats with their current A/V Receivers through the use of HDMI.
The bottom line is that we are all waiting for Toshiba to make an announcement on its future plans. I expect that an announcement will come this week. While it has slashed prices, it can't stop the bleeding in the U.S. It's too bad really. Toshiba may have lost the U.S., but I understand that China may be adopting HD DVD. So, who knows what the future may bring?