Universal Responds to Blockbuster Blu-ray Move

Not quite the end of the format war after all?

Only a few days ago Blockbuster made the announcement that it was prioritising Blu-ray over HD DVD rentals from its stores, which was widely reported as a major blow to the Toshiba led camp. It was timely then that some of the key supporters of the format came together to give a selected group of journalists an update on the current state-of-play from the HD DVD camp.

The key question was naturally enough what its response was to Blockbuster’s move to drop HD DVD rentals from 250 of its US stores. Ken Graffeo, Executive Vice President of High Definition Strategic Marketing for Universal and co-president HD DVD Promotional Group, shrugged off the Blockbuster move, stating that rental counted for less the one per cent of its revenue. He also pointed out that Blockbuster still offered HD DVD on its online stores.

Ken then said that the interactive and online features of HD DVD that gave it an edge over Blu-ray, stating that Blu-ray’s BD-J had only just been finally ratified, rendering early players obsolete. By contrast HD DVD was a fixed standard and that any player that didn’t conform could not use the official logo, hence its absence from LG’s new dual format player.

Interestingly, Microsoft’s Xavier Bringué implied that it was only when the Blu-ray camp decided it was going with Java that it decided to stop being format agnostic and go with HD DVD – a tacit admission that the move was purely political, based on Microsoft’s poor relationship with Sun. Bringué also scotched rumours that Microsoft had any plans for a Blu-ray drive for the Xbox in the future. *

What Ken really said would win the format war was price, with HD DVD’s lower production costs giving it an advantage here over Blu-ray. When asked about when we would see a £100 HD DVD player, Toshiba’s Olivier Van Wynendaele, said it was unlikely to be this year, but that we could soon expect for see decks from Chinese manufactures that would undercut its own entry-level HD-E1 deck, which can currently be picked up for around £260.

Link: www.toshiba.co.uk

* Update:

Microsoft has taken exception to my take on Xavier Bringué’s comments on why it supports HD DVD. For the record this is its response:

“Microsoft believes that HD DVD’s HDi, with its mandatory features and superior interactivity provides a better experience for the consumer. This was one of several reasons Microsoft and Intel decided to endorse HD DVD. We believe that the latest HD DVD titles in the market prove our point.”

So now you know.

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