Monday, February 18, 2008

HD-DVD Production Halted?

HD DVD has been on death row since Warner announced, early in January, the movie studio’s exclusive support of Blu-ray format. HD DVD evangelist Toshiba is reeling after Friday’s announcement that Wal-Mart, whose large market share and ‘gangsta’ business tactics has forced manufacturing plants overseas in droves, decided to restrict consumer choice to only Blu-ray high definition video discs and players.

Wal-Mart will be added to the short list of retailers choosing sides, BestBuy and Netflix have also allied with Blu-ray, but Wal-Mart's decision weights a bit more heavily on the format's future. Something tells me Sony and Panasonic, Blu-rays main backers, already fluent in Wal-Mart’s ‘language’ of cut throat dealings, took a trip to Bentonville, and hammered out a deal involving mass sums of
money to flip the switch to ‘off’ for the HD DVD format, at least in Wal-Marts. This is all conjecture, and breaks anti-trust laws, but this *is* Wal-Mart we're talking about, they’re not exactly stewards of fair trade.

This announcement has had a ripple effect all the way to the HD DVD manufactures, underscoring the supercenter’s massive market influence. Reports out of Japan have stated that Toshiba will discontinue any further production of HD DVD players or discs. Wal-Mart was a huge proponent of HD DVD back when they where selling players at $100 each; now we know why they were so cheap. Were they knowingly promoting a dying format in order to clear stock, then turned around and discontinued it? Sounds like business as usual; consumers getting handed the short end of the stick…from the company who touts “Save Money, Live Better”.

Wal-Mart bashing aside, I’m glad to see Sony win one. Sony’s BetaMax was better than VHS, not sure about Blu-ray, but the extra manufacturing cost that drives up Blu-ray movie title prices is annoying. Another blow to cash strapped hi-def lovers is Blu-ray player pricing. They‘re twice the price of HD DVD players, although, what’s the use of owning a player at half the price if it can’t play anything.

Some analysts see Video on Demand (VoD) as the future of movie distribution. Increased data transfer speeds makes online transactions of VoD content much more viable than even 10 years ago, but these purchases still represent a tiny fraction of the overall market.

VoD is an attractive prospect to brick and mortar retailers too: little cost, no shipping, no returns, no defects, no theft, no unsold product, and instant inventory. The idea is that an in store kiosk would burn movies to the buyer’s media of choice (Blu-ray, DVD, even flash drive). The kiosk could even print the cover art and provide a case. This would satisfy the materialistic desire for a physical product, give the kiosk operator’s huge profits, all while maintaining the viewer’s choice of media. This is what’s on the horizon for movie distribution; invest in building and marketing these kiosks, and you could secure your early retirement. Just be ready to ship production overseas if you plan to sell to Wal-Mart.

Buy a nice upconverting unit and save yourself some hassle.

Related Products
Samsung HT-TXQ120T Home Theater System
Toshiba SD-6000 1080p Up-Converting DVD Player
Marantz SR8002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Samsung HT-X250T 5.1 Channel Home Theater System
JVC RX-D702B Audio/Video Control Receiver (Black)