The delay of the first HD DVD players into next year combined with the inclusion of Blu-ray in the upcoming PlayStation 3 will be the knock-out punch to the HD DVD camp, believes Benjamin Feingold, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Feingold says there will be a "big bang" when Sony launches the PS3.
For months there had been much talk of a possible compromise between the Sony-led Blu-ray camp and the Toshiba-led HD DVD group, but neither side could come to an agreement. In late August, Toshiba admitted that talks to unify next-gen DVD formats had ceased. "It is regrettable but unavoidable that two formats will remain (on the market)," a Toshiba official told the Kyodo News Agency.
The 'big bang'
Shortly thereafter, the news spread that Toshiba was pushing back its HD DVD launch into 2006 -- the Japanese firm had planned to introduce the first HD DVD players during the fourth quarter of this year. The delay was all that skeptics needed in order to pronounce HD DVD dead, and it apparently was the perfect ammo for Sony to use against the rival format.
Speaking to HomeMediaRetailing.com, Benjamin Feingold, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE), made the prediction that within a year HD DVD would have no choice but to surrender, largely thanks to the inclusion of Blu-ray players in every PlayStation 3.
"I think in 12 months it's all going to be clear: the combination of Blu-ray and PlayStation 3 machines is going to overwhelm any HD DVD presence and all studios will have to support Blu-ray," said Feingold.
He continued, "There's going to be a big bang when PS3 launches. The convergence aspect is the killer application. If HD DVD does launch it will be a small format, and the real question is do studios want to build an infrastructure to support that and at the same time risk confusing consumers?"
Instant revenue streams for Blu-ray
While Feingold may sound a bit brash, the fact that Blu-ray is the PS3's default optical media format could very well be a huge advantage. When the PlayStation 2 launched back in 2000, the DVD format was just beginning to hit its stride, and some would argue that having a DVD player in the console helped fuel DVD movie sales. In fact, for the first several months after the PS2's launch there were reports that many consumers were doing a lot more movie viewing on the machine than actual game playing.
Could we see the same scenario with Blu-ray and the PS3? One thing is certain: thanks to the PS3, movie studios will quickly gain a sizable Blu-ray player userbase as more and more PS2 owners flock to the next-gen console.
"It's clear to me that a year from now everyone will be putting out Blu-ray, whether they've announced or not, because once there are a few million playback devices it's a revenue stream they cannot and will not ignore," said Feingold.
HD DVD not done yet
While Blu-ray offers higher capacity storage than HD DVD, Toshiba still believes it has a significant advantage when it comes to cost. Manufacturing costs for HD DVD discs are purportedly far lower than for Blu-ray; Toshiba also questions whether consumers need the additional space Blu-ray provides.
"We have doubts as to whether the Blu-ray format is a viable technology in terms of production cost... We're also not convinced that consumers would need to store so much data on disks, especially now that internal hard drives are more popular," commented Toshiba spokesman Junko Furuta.
For the time being, Microsoft will only manufacture its Xbox 360 with traditional DVD drives, but the Redmond-based software giant has said it would consider adding HD DVD to future versions of the next-gen console. If Blu-ray wins the format war as Feingold is forecasting, however, would MS consider adding Blu-ray to the 360? It's not impossible if it actually does become the next standard. After all, Sony runs Windows on its PCs and laptops, right?