Wal-Mart dealt the death blow to Toshiba’s high-definition DVD format, HD-DVD, last week when it declared it would only carry Sony’s competing Blu-Ray discs and Blu-Ray players. Wal-Mart had always been aware of its temendous influence in the battle, but waited awhile before making a decision.

Now Toshiba appears close to giving in:

Toshiba may pull the plug on its high-definition DVD format but no decision has been made, the Japanese electronics maker said in a statement Monday.

Toshiba Corp. has started a review of its HD DVD business, it said, amid reports by the Wall Street Journal and Kyodo News agency that Toshiba was considering pulling out after losing ground to the competing Blu-ray disc format.

The Journal, citing people familiar with the situation, reported Sunday that the company is likely to pull out early this week.

A Toshiba pullout would signal the almost certain defeat of HD DVD to Blu-ray, which is backed by Sony Corp., five major Hollywood movie studios and others.

Only one format has been expected to emerge as the winner, much like VHS trumped Sony’s Betamax in the video format battle of the 1980s.

This gives home theater buff the green-light to go whole-hog into the winning Blu-Ray format now, right? Wired magazine says not so fast:

This leaves Blu-Ray as the presumptive victor in the irrelevant optical disk format war. It now must face up to the real competition: the continuing success of DVD and the growing popularity of downloads, both on the internet and on-demand cable TV.

As a consumer, the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD war always bothered me. The competing formats could be confusing to shoppers already baffled by the emerging digital/hi-def landscape. (We’ve got Craig O’Neill having to explain it!)

So someone finally coming out on top (Sony or Toshiba, it really didn’t matter) is a good thing.

But Wired is right. The move to on-demand will one day make such physical media irrelevant. Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, has already announced big upgrades to its HD on-demand offerings, and the satellite TV firms and IPTV providers are also making leaps. When you can access thousands of HD titles with the click of button via your cable, satellite or IPTV provider menu, renting or purchasing plastic discs becomes beside the point.

The new generation of high-definition discs will enjoy a successful run. But it won’t be as profitable as the big DVD boom, and it won’t last near as long.

HD-DVD Death Made Official. Downloads To Kill Blu-Ray Next. | Gadget Lab from Wired.com

(This post also appears on The Ladder.) 


One Response

  1. […] course, there’s this refrain from those who threw support behind HD-DVD and not the winner, Blu-Ray, and pretty much everyone else whose watching where media is headed in the next five years: If […]

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