HD DVD: A Demise Greatly Exaggerated?

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HD DVD is dead. Or so says the media. How about waiting for consumers to make the final decision?

Jan. 21, 2008 — by Cindy Davis

I have been quietly watching the press, including those from my own group, talk about the seemingly final round of the Blu-ray and HD DVD format war. Having attended the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) along with the myriad press conferences and now seeing everyone (including electronichouse.com) jump on the bandwagon, I have to share my opinion as well.

Go ahead call me a Pollyanna, but I thought the idea behind the format war was to let the consumer choose—right? Yes, I do think it would have been better to have had both sides in the beginning deliver the one and best format. Yeah, right. So that didn’t happen and they left it to the consumer to choose the winner in the end. Yeah, right. This is politics and money at its best.

Because I am in the industry, I will own both HD DVD and Blu-ray players. I am too close to the subject to know if I would have put down the money for both if I didn’t need to do so. Given that I pay monthly for three HD-DVRs, I probably would have. For better or worse, I have also gotten close to the people behind the development of the products for both formats. They are all really good people.

I wince when I see writers (including those from my own group) doing a dance over HD DVD when the war hasn’t been decided yet. Yes, it makes for a good story. Don’t get me wrong, I am not apologizing for them. They have a job to do and I am respectful of their opinions.

The Toshiba press conference at CES was a tough one to get through. I respect Jodi Sally, Toshiba’s V.P. of marketing for the digital A/V group, for not spinning the news that Warner had dumped the HD DVD format in favor of Blu-ray. She appeared devastated. Jodi started by saying “As you can imagine, this is a tough day for me. I have had better.” Good for her for admitting that. She and her team have worked really hard on this and will continue to support the format with products.

During CES I got together with many other people I have come to know well on the Blu-ray side of the fence as well. Understandably, their joy was hard to contain.

Everyone is saying that Warner’s decision is the blow that will be the one to take the HD DVD format down. The biggest blow didn’t come from Warner, it came from the HD DVD Promotional Group itself, who ran like scared puppies and canceled their press conference at CES. What do they want people to think? By the way, the HD DVD Promotional Group is not exactly a small group of small companies. My invitation to the press conference read: “Featuring executives from the HD DVD Promotional Group: Intel, Microsoft, Paramount Home Entertainment, Toshiba, Universal Studios Home Entertainment and Warner Home Video.”  Well I guess the last one wouldn’t have shown up.  What do they want people to think when they canceled the press conference? So let’s not just blame the press for jumping on the death of HD DVD bandwagon, when the HD DVD Promotional Group couldn’t even come up with something to say to defend its position.

Maybe there’s hope for the democratic process after all. In this day of the Internet where news and opinion are shared in nanoseconds by a community greater than a seemingly powerful promotional group, maybe the consumer will get to choose. There’s nobody to blame except for the information highway.

One note for all of us: There are real people just like you and me that are behind these products who stay up all night working to make the best product they know how. So when we slam them (sometimes anonymously via a blog) at least wince.

Cindy Davis is the Editor-in-Chief of Electronic House magazine. In five years when there are no optical discs to argue over she will be viewing Super HD (war TBD) content on her video wall (war TBD).

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