CES Dispatch--Toshiba's HD DVD Response

I’m in Las Vegas, doing the rounds of press conferences that kick off the annual Consumer Electronics Shows. Everyone lined up early for the most-anticipated one—Toshiba Corp.’s. If gadgets could look forlorn, Toshiba’s three new HD DVD players looked just that sitting on stage ahead of the executives’ speeches. Jody Sally, vice president of digital audio/visual equipment, which includes Toshiba HD DVD player lineup, looked on the verge of tears during her truncated three-minute presentation in which reports of HD DVD’s sales progress became moot following Warner Brothers decision to exclusively support the rival Blu-ray high definition DVD format later this year. Sally tried to put on a good game face, though, noting that HD DVD unit sales over the holiday shopping period accounted for 49.3% of the market. What she didn’t note was that the figure would then translate to Blu-ray capturing the majority of sales of standalone players despite heavy Toshiba discounting. And those numbers do not include PlayStation 3 sales. Industry watchers were abuzz with reports that retailers were seeing heavy return rates on HD DVD players since Christmas after buyers realized many of the movies they wanted were only on Blu-ray. Sally and Toshiba America President Akio Ozaka remain defiant, saying they continue to believe HD DVD is the best format for consumers. Unfortunately for them, the content industry appears to think otherwise.

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