Toshiba's delayed HD DVD players

Kenji Hall

First, it was Sony. Now, it's Toshiba. The leaders of the rival next-generation DVD formats are behind schedule in rolling out the high-def DVD players that they're promising will deliver super-clear video pictures. My colleague in Silicon Valley, Cliff Edwards, has already examined the problems both sides are facing.

Today's announcement did nothing to dispel concerns about the technologies. At a news conference for the HD DVD player's launch in Japan, Toshiba execs said they had pushed back to mid-April their plans to sell the players in the U.S. (They are expected to retail at $500 and $800 in the U.S. and for $940 in Japan.) That should coincide with the release of some Hollywood movie titles--and it will still put Toshiba's HD DVD format on the market months before any Blu-ray disc players from Sony, Samsung, Panasonic and others reach the market. Samsung Electronics will come out with the first Blu-ray player on May 23, and Sony's will follow in July.

Toshiba senior vice president Yoshihide Fujii observed that the winner of the format war will have the best content. He predicted that between 100 and 150 HD DVD movie titles will be available in Japan and Europe by December and as many as 200 in the U.S. That should help the company sell 600,000 to 700,000 HD DVD players (including a model that records onto a sizable hard disk drive) in the year starting April 1, he said. Fujii noted that the fight "will be decided by speed and cost," and even went so far as to say that he thought the battle would be won by HD DVD by year end.

A bit brash, I think. The reality is, nobody knows how this is going to play out. A glance at the couple dozen ho-hum HD DVD titles (Neverland, The Brothers Grimm and Pacchigi, a Japanese film) available in Japan leaves me doubtful that anyone will rush out and buy a next-gen DVD player right away.