Should HD DVD Turn to the Dark Side?
Abandonment by Warner and Fox has left HD DVD with shrinking support among the motion picture studios. If HD DVD survives at all, it will have to do so with little or eventually no major-studio support. So maybe this is the time to ask a potentially controversial question: Does HD DVD have a future as a niche format--or possibly even an outlaw format? The following suggestions range from possible to distasteful to downright illegal. But since the future of a promising young format is at stake, let's think, um, creatively.
Minor Players: One of HD DVD's advantages is that it uses the same method of manufacturing as regular DVD, so the discs cost less to press. This might make HD DVD attractive to small, independent, or foreign labels, or anyone otherwise not associated with the major studios.
Um, Porn: Sony was at least initially cool to producers of erotic content. According to one report, it has relented somewhat, but HD DVD has already staked a strong claim in this area. Historically, adult content was a big factor in growing the videocassette and DVD markets, and there's no reason to suppose high-def discs will be any different.
Rogue Recording: This probably won't happen, and the last thing I want to do is advocate illegal behavior. But, in theory, not having to please the studios might leave Toshiba free to relax the DRM compliance of HD DVD recorders to allow users to burn discs from any source, and I mean any source. True, recording is not yet a feature in black-box machines, but recordable HD DVD drives already exist in PCs. If Toshiba wanted revenge on the studios, this would be the way to get it. All right, all right, forget I said anything about this.
Legal Recording: Of course, some forms of recording are legally permitted under the Supreme Court's Betamax decision--for instance, the time shifting of network TV programming, or copying your wedding video. The rewritable form of HD DVD might easily become an alternative to the crippled DVRs offered by cable and satellite companies. And HD DVD-R or -RW certainly would be a big improvement over standard-def DVD recorders. The key here is cost, and Toshiba has already shown leadership in this area with play-only machines.
So there you have several ways in which HD DVD might still attract consumers. Any one of them could trigger a purchase decision. And the cumulative effect of the legal ones--three out of four--just might give HD DVD a plausible future. Despite all those mean things people are saying about it.