Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Format War: The Conclusion

Unless you were living under a very large and heavy rock, you no doubt have heard that Toshiba -finally- officially pulled the plug on the HD-DVD format, thus, ending the high-definition disc format war.

Not surprisingly, making my personal predictions for the year very, very wrong. I figured Universal Studios would jump ship by the end of the spring, at least going back to producing titles on both formats like they were last year at this time. At that point I thought it would take till the fall or even the end of the year for Paramount to officially cave and, by default, kill the HD-DVD standard with or without a white flag from Toshiba.

I'm happy to be wrong. Getting this thing over with now, hopefully means Universal back on the Blu-ray train by summer time (in terms of product on store shelves) and Paramount at some point after that. I don't know what it'll take for Paramount to get situated in the Blu-ray production market, but you have to assume that behind closed doors the preparations for such a move are already being put in place, if they're not already.

All in all, I'm very happy the format war is ending. That does not, however, mean, I'm all starry eyed over Sony's "success" with the Blu-ray format. Frankly, f#@ Sony and f#@ Toshiba. For over two years I've watched these two camps squabble and bicker and pontificate on the future of high-definition of video and how superior their respective format was, when what consumers deserved was a single, unified format from the very beginning. No, though I love watching movies in HD, Sony gets no bonus points from me just by virtue of being the last one standing. They're going to have to put far more time and energy into convincing consumers to move on from DVD as it is, and that doesn't even factor in the growing competition from downloading video online and the proliferation of OnDemand content from both cable and satellite.

Enjoy your big victory, Sony. Better hope it's not a pyrrhic one.

EDIT: Being the savant that I am, I reversed the standing of Paramount (plus Dreamworks) and Universal above. I don't know why I thought Universal was the one who was format neutral at this time last year. (It was Paramount.) In any case, there's stories circulating now that both of these studios have announced their intention to support Blu-ray and Engadget has indicated we might see product on shelves from both as early as the end of Spring.