A new survey found that more than half of 1,000 consumers polled have no plans to buy a Blu-ray player. About one in four claimed they'll probably buy one in 2009, but you know how that goes. It's not hard to spot what stops them: $300 or more for a player and more than $20 per disc for most popular movies. Manufacturers and studios that backed the cheaper HD-DVD format can say it now: We told you so.
As part of Neil Young's appearance at Sun's JavaOne conference, groups of hacks were herded into a conference room to ask questions of the aging rock legend, presumably about how awesome Java is, but I think the plan is that Java is just awesome because Young says so, and he trotted out an expansive interactive discography powered by the Java functionality built into Sony's Blu-ray hardware and a clean car project with telemetrics powered by Sun-sponsored software. Because I doubt there's anything baby boomer executives and the formerly flannel-shirted Gen-X set they spawned like more than getting the most out of their cars and home theater systems. Except maybe hearing Young pontificate on the virtues of an all-analog recording process.
Toshiba has finally said what everyone else has known for a while: HD-DVD is dead. The company will quit making players and recorders for its high-def disc format by the end of March. This was a foregone conclusion once major video vendors Wal-Mart, Netflix and Best Buy dropped their support for HD-DVD. No word on when Toshiba will begin selling players for Blu-ray, Sony's rival disc. [Gizmodo]
The high-definition disc battle is over, and Blu-ray has won. We can now move on to more productive matters. Why am I declaring victory? Not because of Warner's switch to the format, and certainly not because of Netflix's. Retailing is not a democracy. There is one vote that matters. No, it's not the consumer's — it's Wal-Mart's. And Wal-Mart, formerly an HD-DVD advocate, is going Blu. Walmart.com currently has its sole HD-DVD player model on clearance, and by June, it will only sell Blu-ray players and discs. Next format war, please.
Toshiba is insisting that its HD-DVD disc format is doing well, despite Warner's defection to the Blu-ray side. Citing strong fourth-quarter sales of HD-DVD players, Toshiba's going ahead with the fight. Which has to give Steve Jobs a chuckle. The continuing war between Blu-ray and HD-DVD just redounds to his advantage, as he preps a laptop without any optical drive at all and a retooled Apple TV to deliver movies to the living room.
Drunk on power after slaying the HD-DVD dragon, Sony rolled into CES `08 with more confidence than Colin Farrell after a couple of key bumps. Eager to gloat but unwilling to pay huge appearance fees, they trotted out Leonard Maltin (the poor man's Roger Ebert) and Dean Devlin (the homeless man's Jerry Bruckheimer) to
shill discuss the impact that Blu-Ray will have on the filmmaking process. The two spent a few minutes lamenting the demise of the in-theater viewing experience before launching into orgiastic praise of all things Blu-Ray. After explaining that "home video is no longer an ancillary market, now it's a PRIMARY market", Dean Devlin dropped a radioactive bomb on us.
I'm as ready as anyone to declare Sony the victor in the epic high-definition disc battle. Its Blu-ray, now supported by Warner Bros., looks set to best Toshiba's HD-DVD. In Hollywood, where they still care about the industrial process of shipping plastic discs by the millions to retail stores, this matters. In the Valley, we've long since moved on. Sony executives still dream of formats, hardware, and an empire of lock-in. To them, "software" means the creative content screened in theaters, dropped into CD players, or played on a videogame console. That's why they're doomed to lose the real war.
The porn industry is taking a back seat in the high-def format wars. Unlike the VHS-Betamax battles of the early '80s, where porn fans helped VHS win, the industry has released very few X-rated HD titles. The reason? "Porn is a fantasy and the added resolution sometimes detracts from that fantasy." [Investor's Business Daily]
OMG! Sony is challenging Apple to a video-download service duel! Howard Stringer, Sony's CEO, has a novel plan to use the PlayStation 3 as a trojan horse into the living rooms of America — supplanting the struggling Apple TV. Please. The only thing shocking about Sony's service is that it took the company this long to sort things out. And that's not particularly shocking, since this is Sony we're talking about — the conglomerate that couldn't coordinate its way out of a paper bag. The surprise is not that Sony has a video-download service in the works — it's that Sony management feels confident enough about the effort to spoon-feed a story to the Wall Street Journal about it. Here's the back story that the Journal didn't bother to provide.
Paramount and Dreamworks, you best think about what you've done. There's a war on in the high-definition movie world, and you just picked sides. Signing up with the HD-DVD faction for the pittance of $150 million in cash and promotions only prolongs a format skirmish that's in need of a good snuffing.
Target and Blockbuster have already said they plan only to carry Blu-ray discs, and sales of that format are outpacing HD-DVDs, according to recent reports. Now, we don't have a dog in this fight; we just want it to be over as soon as possible.
Although fans of high-definition video had already been deriding the Hollywood in Hi-Def site, created by backers of the Blu-ray disc format, for days, it appears our Friday post may have helped provoke a response. The site's masthead now clearly states "Built for Blu-Ray, Powered by Blu-Ray Supporters" and the About Us page has been thoroughly revised, removing any doubt that this "forum" is actually an advertisement. Although much of the site still uses generic "hi-def" headers which could fool newcomers, we are happy to have contributed a small part to the eventual demise of this deceptive promotional campaign. The site description from the About Us page, before and after our post, following the jump:
There is a new web site focused on unbiased coverage of high-definition entertainment. The only problem: it's a Blu-Ray promotional campaign — exclusively covering Blu-Ray — created by its backers: Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios, and others. Hi-def fans spotted the campaign immediately and are decrying the site as propaganda.