The HD Format War Is Officially Over: The Winner is Blu-Ray!!

2008 was not the year for HD-DVD. After only 2 months into the year and a total of only 22 months in the market place, competing format Blu-Ray has claimed a fast and decisive victory. Even though many in the industry believed that the battle was looking to stalemate judging from status of the battle as of the end of 2007, the press releases came steadily beginning in January 2008. Each one delivered one more nail in the coffin of HD-DVD and by mid-February all of the backers of HD-DVD had raised the white flag.

First a bit of review. For those not familiar with the two competing HD formats HD-DVD, backed primarily by Toshiba and Universal Pictures, and Blu-Ray Disc, backed primarily by Sony, Pioneer, and Disney, have been competing for the hearts and minds of consumers to be the legitimate successor to the DVD format. The main advantage of both formats include the upgrade to high definition video and audio with several times more resolution and fidelity than a DVD can ever offer. Since the April 2006 when HD-DVD debuted (followed shortly after by Blu-Ray in June 2006), the two have been engaged in a format war not unlike the VHS vs Betamax war of the 1980s. As some of you may remember, Sony's betamax format lost that war to a technologically inferior product in JVC's VHS. But could history repeat itself? Let's see how the two formats compared in some key areas (Note that this was the state as of the end of 2007):

HD-DVD

Release Date: April 2006
Storage Capacity (SL/DL): 15GB/30GB
Maximum Resolution: 1920 x 1080p
Primary Backer: Toshiba
Consumer Electronics Support: Toshiba, LG, Microsoft
Movie Studio Support: Universal, Warner Bros, Paramount
Pros: Cheaper hardware prices than Blu-Ray, demonstrated more advanced features and interactivity on software releases from day 1.
Cons: Less storage capacity and bandwidth than Blu-Ray, fewer support from both consumer electronic companies and movie studios.

Blu-Ray

Release Date: June 2006
Storage Capacity (SL/DL): 25GB/50GB
Maximum Resolution: 1920 x 1080p
Primary Backer: Sony
Consumer Electronics Support: Sony, Samsung, Pioneer, Sharp, LG, Phillips, Panasonic, Dell
Movie Studio Support: Sony/Columbia, Fox, Disney, MGM, Warner Bros, New Line, Paramount
Pros: Highest storage capacity and bandwidth, more move studio and consumer electronic support, included as standard in Playstation 3, blockbuster video exclusive supporter
Cons: hardware costs more than HD-DVD, software was of subpar quality first few months after release, non-standard features harder and longer to implement available while HD-DVD has all features standard across all hardware and software.

A quick glance shows the rather lopsided support in favor of Blu-Ray, not to mention that while both formats are virtually identical Blu-Ray does have the technological advantage as well. The reality is however that in practice both formats performed virtually identical and co-existence of both on the market ironically did nothing but to stall the jump to HD for most consumers due to confusion. Hollywood and consumers agreed that a single format was in the best interest for all. Well, it seems like we got our wish. Let's recap the announcements and events that led to HD-DVD's "death" in the short time period from Jan08-Feb 08.
  1. The tide started to turn almost overnight when unexpectedly Warner Bros, who had been supporting both formats since the beginning, announced that they would drop HD-DVD support after May 2008. The timing of this event contributed to its impact, coming in early Jan 08, only days before CES 2008(Consumer Electronics Show).
  2. National Geographic announces they will support Blu-Ray exclusively
  3. Netflix announces that it will stop renting HD-DVDs
  4. Best Buy announces that it will begin to "push" Blu-Ray over HD-DVDs to its consumers as the format of choice (while still supporting HD-DVD)
  5. Wal-Mart announces that they will stop selling HD-DVD and support Blu-Ray exlusively
  6. Toshiba announces that they will no longer develop HD-DVD players
  7. Universal studio (finally) announces that they will drop HD-DVD begin supporting Blu-Ray
  8. Paramount (after dropping Blu-Ray only last August) announces that it will drop HD-DVD and support Blu-Ray
  9. Microsoft announces that it will discontinue its HD-DVD add-on for the Xbox360.
Phew! All of that in only a matter of weeks. Surely a quick and uneasy death for HD-DVD. So why did Blu-Ray win so quickly and decisively? Well, I personally always believed that this victory was inevitable for a couple of primary reasons:
  1. SUPPORT! Technology doesn't matter to the average consumer and neither does how cool the box art looks. The bottom line is Blu-Ray has had the vast majority of consumer electronic and movie studio support since before the formats were even released. Surely, Universal and Toshiba cannot take on the world and win alone. This is also the reason why the technologically superior Betamax lost to the inferior VHS.
  2. The Playstation 3. Consider this, to date there are approximately 10 millions PS3 in homes worldwide. That's 10 million blu-ray players. Hardware drives software so once those new PS3 owners with those shiny HDTVs realize that their game console can play hi-def movies, they will look to buy content. Thus Blu-Ray software has been outselling HD-DVD by about a 2:1 factor for the majority of 2007. In comparison, combined sales of all HD-DVD players and the Xbox360 HD-DVD add-on totaled only 750,000 as of Nov 2007.
Seems pretty clear cut to me. What do you guys think?

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