I'm not one to bandy around terms such as 'fire sale' lightly, but if I were then the latest press release from Toshiba, our friendly neighbourhood HD DVD evangelists, I might be forgiven for thinking it an apt one. OK, so the writing isn't quite on the wall that Blu-ray is definitively the winner of the HD format war, but the format's advocates certainly have their pencils at the ready. Anyway, the matter at hand relates to Toshiba's decision to slash the prices on all of its HD DVD players, very clearly in response to recent manoeuvring in the Blu-ray side of the battlefield.
The new initiative sees player prices slashed in the US to $140 for the HD-A3, $180 for the HD-30 (a.k.a. HD-EP30 in the UK) and $299 for the HD-A35 (or, in the UK, the HD-EP35) according to the blurb from Toshiba itself, and various retailers seem to be undercutting even those numbers. Whether these price tags will also be seen in the UK remains to be seen; fingers crossed for the hopeful.
Of course cost isn't the only thing HD DVD has in its favour; it also has the argument of being the better standard (as opposed to better format - a different thing entirely) what with HDi and Ethernet connectivity being mandatory, unlike the Blu-ray equivalent to the former, BD Live, which only newer players support.
However, in the words of Yoshi Uchiyama, Group Vice President of Toshiba's Digital A/V Group: "While price is one of the consideration elements for the early adopter, it is a deal-breaker for the mainstream consumer" "Consumer sales this holiday season have proven that the consumer awareness of the HD DVD format has been elevated and pricing is the most critical determinant in consumer's purchase decision of the next generation HD DVD technology. The value HD DVD provides to the consumer simply cannot be ignored"
To which I might retort: "but why, then, has Warner abandoned the format?" in a churlish fashion were I not a journalist of integrity and etiquette (or at least employed by one). Nevertheless, pessimistic as I might sound I can't help but consider this Toshiba's last hurrah in pushing its HD format, but if you are going to have a swansong then offering cheaper hardware to those customers still willing to take the risk on an ailing format doesn't make a bad aria.