Blu-ray will have a substantial, and fatal, lead over HD DVD within a year Sony has now boasted, but is this just a show of bravado or, in fact, knowing confidence as the format war approaches?
Benjamin Feingold, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment president, is the man to make the claim. “In 12 months it is going to be clear,” he said. “The combination of Blu-ray and PlayStation 3 machines is going to overwhelm any HD DVD presence and all studios will have to support Blu-ray”. Strong words but, to be fair, most studios already do…
Even this early on in the looming format war (products won’t hit the market until 2006), a shift can be detected. HD DVD may be backwards compatible with the existing DVD standard and its manufacturing costs lower, but the data capacity is significantly smaller (15GB to 25GB on a single layer disc) and the backers list not nearly so impressive.
While the leading developer Toshiba can count NEC, Sanyo, New Line, Paramount, Universal and Warner Bros amongst its supporters for HD DVD, it pales into comparison with Apple, Dell, HP, Hitachi, LG, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, TDK, Thomson, Twentieth Century Fox and Walt Disney who have already declared their collective love for Sony’s Blu-ray.
Even in the console wars it looks bleak for HD DVD, since Blu-ray will come as standard on the PlayStation 3 which is expected to lead to market (Sony apparently swallows an extra $100 per machine to incorporate it). By contrast, Microsoft has said it “might” bolt HD DVD onto the Xbox 360 at a later date, though initial machines will ship with a standard DVD drive.
All of which makes it rather strange that Toshiba appeared so unwilling to compromise with Sony in talks over a universal next generation standard. After all, it is one thing to declare faith in your brand; it is another to go down with the ship. Furthermore, the announced delays to HD DVD equipment destroy the early marketplace advantage the format was thought to have over Blu-ray.
In sum, Sony clearly senses blood and it already appears to be going in for the kill. It will be significant to see if Toshiba counters these remarks with similarly ambitious statements of its own, but I predict there is more chance of a deathly silence…