CES Turns Blu

The bombshell dropped yesterday, the day before I was to drive to CES. And I don't mean the deluge that hit LA and tested the leaks in my roof (they still work!). It was Warner's decision to go Blu-ray exclusive starting this coming May. Why they aren't doing so immediately is a bit of a puzzle, but is likely due to contractual obligations and to keep from scrapping product already in the pipeline.

Of course, that begs the question of who will buy the remaining stocks of HD DVDs. It's hard to see how this development as anything less than the nail in HD DVD's coffin.

Of course there is still Universal and Paramount/Dreamworks. I suspect they are under some sort of contractual obligation to continue to support HD DVD until who knows when. They, and Toshiba, may decide to tough it out for a while. But a single hardware manufacturer and two studios does not a format make (though Universal does have a very deep catalog).

I'm not dancing in the street. I am rarely disappointed with what I see and hear from HD DVD. Its most significant shortcoming is data space, making titles with high resolution, lossless audio far more rare than on Blu-ray. HD DVD tried to sell this by claiming that Dolby Digital Plus is high resolution. It isn't, really. Though it can sound very good, it is not lossless. HD DVD also does not offer whiz-bang special features that Blu-ray claims, but that Blu-ray is only beginning to deliver—and only then on newer players and a few discs.

But I do hope that this ends the format war. The film studios probably hope so also. Movie revenues were relatively flat in 2007, and DVD sales continue to taper off. They need a new format to sell. Not only are downloads still scarce on the HD side, but the potential for the Kazza-ization of movies gives movie moguls night sweats. (Speaking of Kazza, I on the drive into Vegas I heard on the radio that a single mother was just convicted and fined $220,000 by the FCC for posting 24 songs on the Internet).

We'll find out more this week. The Warner story promises to dominate the news at CES. It will be interesting to hear the press conference spin by companies that continue to support HD DVD—and who perhaps planned on making HD DVD the centerpiece of their displays. The HD DVD group has already cancelled a press event.

I just hope there aren't any companies showing new HD DVD players at the show. And where all this leaves dual format players is also a good question.

We'll be reporting all the news, about this story and others, plus info on all the new products, in our show blogs. Visit early. Visit often.

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Chris Roberts's picture

Finally, what seems to be a decisive move has been made by someone! The nonsense of this ridiculous format war has done nothing but damage to consumers and prevented the war that should be happening: producing the best, most feature-laden high-def discs imaginable. I personally don't care who wins (thought the technically superior Bluray does seem the logical choice), I just want consumers to have the security of knowing what they are buying won't be trash a few months down the road. We deserve that much.

Rafy's picture

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70sam54's picture

I hope this dual hd format continue with no end in sight simply because the consumers should be the ones who decide this outcome and not the studios because what I think is needed is more combo players that does not care what disc is put into them. And we all know Sony hates combo players. I would buy movies in both formats anyway. This is coming from a man with 3 vcrs, 2 LD players, 2 ota hd tuners, dvdr, 2 turntables, 2 sat tuners, Sony sacd player and all the other stuff to tie it all together. And by the way, my HD DVD A1 player has been firmware updated so off to web enable movies like Boure which I enjoyed very much. My hope is Toshiba will make a combo player in the future so I can keep on buying hd dvd movies then add blu ray movies as I see fit. This is my HOBBY not the studios or anyone else to decide for me. No one is worried about how much data can be put on a movie disc. Blu rays promise is on hd dvd now. HAVE A GOOD DAY.

Richard deSousa's picture

I'm puzzled why Blu Ray is considered a better format than HD DVD as there is no difference in the quality of the software and hardware. Given that Blu Ray's prices are much higher why is this beneficial to the consumer? If it wasn't for HD DVD's presence the cost of HD discs and players would be much higher than the current situation. Mar k my words, if Toshiba and HD DVD gives up the fight price of HD players and discs will rise. To succeed the HD industry needs Joe Six Pack and the HD DVD consortium is the best format to deliver this new technology to the masses.

1likeh1f1's picture

I'm glad the initial hoopla has died down from Warner's announcement. For my part, I certainly hope that Blu is the format for the future, since 1)it seems a superior storage/playback media and 2)I've finally invested in the format as my HD choice (Sony BDP-2000ES, as well as the software available so far - incidentally, the Sony unit is VERY well put together and behaves as a good audiophile quality player should with A/V as well as Redbook playback; I'd like to see a comparative review here for the unit sometime soon.) In any event, regarding the HD formats, all is for naught unless the studios/producers properly master and produce the source material to best exploit the formats, particularly focusing on proper audio reproduction. I'm certainly hoping that realistic dynamics (not part your hair/earsplitting hokey effects, but lifelike realism) become more prevailant. Ditto for Redbook, since I still like spend time with my two channel hi-fi. Here's hoping for some blog

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