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What If They Had A War And No One Showed Up?

I was in Florida last year at a friend’s house and dropped into a Best Buy to get some music or movies for us. I asked the first sales associate foolish enough to make eye contact where the SACDs were. He didn’t know what I meant. “The CDs?” – no, the SACDs.

Help came in the form of another associate who presumably had spent more time on the sales floor, or at least, he was less oblivious to his surroundings “You mean those things people return all the time?” he said and steered me towards a three foot wide rack with a mixture of SACDs and DVD-Audio discs. Presumably the latter were the ones that kept getting returned.

I guess it didn’t turn out to be much of a format war. More like a skirmish, the kind they have on patriotic holidays where famous battles get reenacted, but nobody really gets hurt. Hardship is considered being shot first, because you have to lay in the weeds the longest.

That brings us to our next format war. HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray. Because unlike the lukewarm music market, one very important constituent is going sit up and take notice. You see, it doesn’t really matter what the movie studios want this time. And it doesn’t even matter what you, John Qlueless Public wants. All that matters is that those two dudes in Best Buy aren’t put out.

A single SKU is the only thing that will make sense to the large retailers who still feel the pangs of discomfort from the SACD / DVD-Audio fiasco. The last thing they want is a repeat performance. Imagine being the Wal-mart Greeter that has to deal with the angry curler clad Muu Muu garbed housewives of capricious girth and calculated attitude who already waddle in to exchange erroneously purchased widescreen DVD for “the ones that fill the screen, dammit.”

Stores don’t have space, patience or the ability to invent either in order to handle even more stock.

No, a single SKU is all that will do. If a hybrid disc can be developed, a flipper with one hi-definition side and one standard definition side, and if the studios don’t let their momentary greed overtake their long term greed by trying to double disc prices (like record companies did when music went from vinyl to polycarbonate), then a winner can be declared.

The HD-DVD consortium claim just such a disc is possible. Of course, like drunken Kremlin era communists, they also claim to have invented the baby. But they have something else going for them. Microsoft. Microsoft really did invent the baby.

On the other hand, Blu-Ray is finally starting to respond to the HD-DVD crew, and JVC announced plans for their own hybrid disc that would play in both Blu-Ray and standard DVD players. It looks promising. Take that Red Baron!

Maybe both camps can pull it off. Will we then have a full knock-down drag-out war? Huh? Can we? Can we? Not so fast. Broadcom, a company that would sell Uzi’s to Ugandans is already touting a chip that will allow manufacturers to build universal hi-definition players from the git-go.

The worst part is laying in the weeds. Did anyone remember to bring the “OFF” ???

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