Blu-Ray Wins, HD-DVD will concede in 2009

Blu-ray vs. HD-DVDFor the last two years, I have been looking for signs on what would be the technological successor to the standard DVD. I love buying and owning movies on DVD. I am also a power user on the personal computing side. And so, I have a vested interest in knowing what direction the high definition DVD format would eventually go.

Warner Brothers, the owner of the largest movie library in the world, announced they would give full support to Blu-ray by releasing their movies exclusively on Blu-ray discs and discontinue releasing HD-DVD movies.  The tipping point has finally been reached.

For so long, it was HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray with no clear leader. I read all the technical opinions and the consensus was that Sony’s Blu-ray was technologically superior in many ways. However, HD-DVD offered a more affordable path for manufacturers to produce the format.

Sony has continued to brag about the number Blu-ray units sold that include the PlayStation 3 units. Quite frankly, I don’t think that a gaming machine is terribly decisive so I mentally discounted that. I know some of the PC industry folks such as Intel, HP, and Microsoft support HD-DVD. However, they are also not the driving force for adopting a new DVD format. So, I mentally discounted them also.

When Blockbuster adopted Blu-ray exclusively, that was a big sign of trouble for HD-DVD but not a deal-killer.

As much as I hate to admit it, the consumer market rules. They will follow whatever the movie studios decide. Most consumers have no interest in being bleeding edge. I have often said I would have no trouble shifting over to Macintosh computing if the market share was much larger. At 5% market share, Macintosh’s continue to be a minor player in mainstream personal computing.

The analogy is similar. I actually leaned towards HD-DVD, not Blu-ray, because of the cost factor. Although I like superior technology, I am not always willing to pay a large premium for it.

However, with Warner Brothers (the studio owning the largest movie library) committing to Blu-ray exclusively (joining Walt Disney, 20th Century Fox, MGM, Lionsgate, and Sony), they have seriously tipped the balance in favor of Blu-ray, ensuring the inevitable demise of HD-DVD. Essentially, that leaves only Universal and Paramount hanging on to HD-DVD.

I believe the only way HD-DVD can be resurrected is if there was a sudden surge in the numbers of HD-DVD players being bought and owned by consumers this year. And the only way I can see that happening is that players need to be less than $150. If that does not happen, I believe the folks in charge of the HD-DVD format will have to concede.

I think the HD-DVD camp will not give up without a fight. However, given how quickly technology markets move, vendors who don’t have any religious or financial commitment to HD-DVD will simply and easily accept Blu-ray as the triumphant format where the only barrier to entry is the cost factor. Once that happens, I believe the HD-DVD folks will concede the fight next year.

Quite frankly, I hope they will concede sooner so that everyone can move forward and let competitive forces start releasing more Blu-ray players and software (movies) in volume to help lower prices further.

R.I.P. HD-DVD, Long live Blu-Ray!

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