I went to CES 2008 last month in part to get a sense of what was happening in the BluRay-vs-HD-DVD war. Of course, I wasn’t even in Vegas by the time Warner Brothers announced that they were joining the BluRay camp, leaving only two out of seven studios – Paramount and Universal – exclusively HD-DVD. Well, it might be time for those two to make other plans.
In an interesting example of syncronicity, two announcements this week have pretty much finished off HD-DVD. First, Netflix announced they would no longer offer HD-DVD discs in their rental inventory by the end of the year. As a go-to service for movie buffs, that one had to hurt Toshiba, HD-DVD’s parent. Then, another blow: retailer Best Buy declared they would recommend BluRay as their preferred format for hi-def discs. Everyone in the audience that has never bought anything at a Best Buy, please raise your hands. Hmm, pretty quiet out there.
Of course, the super-futurists among us will sniff that this is all just theater, that actually owing a physical copy of a media property is passe’ already. Downloads, they say, are the future, no matter the outcome of the hi-def disc war. I can’t really buy into that myself, at least not yet; downloads of hi-def material still take way too long, and there is still something about holding a disc in your hand that says “mine!” that a file stored in a server never will. (And let’s not forget how the vinyl people howled at the downsizing of album covers to CD cases – where do you put the cover art? Now that problem is becoming an absolute reality – no disc, no cover. No cover, no cover art.)
It looks like Sony has won this round. It must taste pretty sweet in the wake of VHS vs. Betamax a few decades ago. Now if they can get good, updated BluRay players into the market for less than $100, we might have a product here.