It's only Monday and already potentially the biggest news of the week has arrived: Toshiba adopts Blu-ray. I had a brief chat with Olivier van Wynedaele, assistant general manager of marketing and consumer products at Toshiba Europe, to find out more.
It's an obvious question, but why now?
"It's an obvious answer but because we want to manufacture Blu-ray products. We have had our eye on Blu-ray since HD DVD and have seen the format mature and prices have come down making products more affordable. There's also the development of BD Live, something which brings essential online capabilities and offers something beyond a purely physical format - so it became time to consider it. Especially in the UK, Japan and US where it is taking significant shares of the market even if it remains well below DVD."
Was there market pressure to enter the Blu-ray sector?
"We are currently the DVD market leader, we want to secure this on Blu-ray. It will support sales of our TVs particularly where bundles are increasingly offered to consumers for a High Definition TV and Blu-ray player. Valuable and long term customers must be recognised. This was our strategy with HD DVD and now profile 2.0 brings the same online benefits to Blu-ray and that interests us for development of Internet enabled devices."
Blu-ray drives in laptops must also be a major driver in this?
"The laptop market is actually not proven for Blu-ray yet, the DVD drive is still hugely dominant and market growth is largely in the netbook area which has little need for it. But it is definitely a developing sector and we are a top three manufacturer of laptops in Europe so we see its potential, especially for our Qosmio line before it evolves down other product lines."
Does this mean the end for Toshiba's DVD upscaling technology? You had previously pushed this as an alternative to High Definition optical discs.
"The development of upscaling technology will continue in all Toshiba drives and DVD products. We do not want to give the impression it is competing directly against Blu-ray. It is a necessary technology to get the best from standard definition content and it will also be important in the future when upscaling 1080p to next generation 2k or 4k resolutions occurs so it is important to continue. Not that I'm saying that will be necessary for a while."
Do you think your experience with HD DVD can be beneficial to your approach to Blu-ray?
"Yes. HD DVD has already given us experience with other solutions for online services and we understand its needs. We will only consider devices that can be connected to a network and we have many areas of cross compatible expertise."
'Do you anticipate Blu-ray having a shelf life comparable to DVD? Many argue it is just a short term bridging solution for High Definition on-demand content."
"It is impossible to tell the time frame for these things. All the time we see new market developments and new media, but for the foreseeable future Blu-ray will be very important. We have been very specific in waiting to come to market. We see the pricing as crucial to our timeframe and of course we are always working on many different technologies, but the time for Blu-ray is coming now."
When can we expect to see the first Toshiba Blu-ray products?
"I cannot get into specifics but before the end of the year for sure. We will look to introduce standalone Blu-ray players and Blu-ray equipped laptops. In the UK HDTV and Blu-ray player bundling deals are also important so we may look at creating packages there."
In hindsight was the HD DVD and Blu-ray format war necessary?
"We thought it was the best technology at that time. The best solution for manufacturing and for immediately available Internet capacities. But HD DVD is done, rest in peace, and it is only Blu-ray. Yes it was worth the fight at the time, but now we move on."