http://reviews.cnet.com/4520-6449_7-668 ... l?tag=more
4. HD DVD surrenders by September
OK, this probably won't happen, but it should. With sales for both HD DVD and Blu-ray stand-alone players remaining tepid throughout the year, the biggest number of players will actually come in the form of game consoles--or in the case of the Xbox 360 and its HD DVD external drive, game console accessories. According to the numbers we're seeing, there are 175,000 HD DVD players out there (with 92,000 of those being Xbox 360 HD DVD players) and around a million Blu-ray players in homes, most of them PS3s. As Sony ramps up PS3 production, we expect that 5:1 ratio to hold, and perhaps even increase. Add to that the fact that sometime very soon the number of available Blu-ray titles will top the number of HD DVD titles, with the gap continuing to widen as the year progresses, and things don't look all that good for Camp HD DVD. Personally, I don't care who wins or loses, and I'm not rooting for either format. But unfortunately, if someone doesn't bow out gracefully, both formats risk going nowhere, especially with various forms of downloadable HD content in the works.
Because of various negative comments, the author of the above tech prediction(s) was forced to post a followup article: "My conspiracy against HD DVD"
http://reviews.cnet.com/4520-6449_7-669 ... ag=slide_1
(it's worth reading!)
Finally, The Digital Bits posted their own take on the format war:
Now then... in high-def news today, Fox and MGM have informed us of the specific Blu-ray Disc titles that they've had to delay temporarily due to production issues. They include Ice Age, Dodgeball, Commando, The Thomas Crown Affair and Dances with Wolves from March, and Tristan & Isolde, Dude Where's My Car?, The Fly, Turistas, Hannibal, Silence of the Lambs and To Live and Die in L.A. from April. New street dates for these titles are expected to be announced shortly, so we'll let you know.
In other high-def news, we've got the first reports on actual unit software sales numbers, though the numbers come from Sony Computer Entertainment America (which has an obvious bias). Next Generation magazine has reported Sony's claim that 439,000 Blu-ray movie discs have sold in the U.S., while 438,000 HD-DVDs have sold. We believe these numbers are format to date. It will be interesting to see if any third party tracking companies release unit sales numbers to confirm Sony's claims. Still, they don't seem out of line with the data we've seen from Nielsen VideoScan recently.
Meanwhile, Newsweek magazine has posted an interesting story recently that has relevance to the HD format war. The piece indicates that the adult film industry is in the middle of its worst software sales slump in years, in part impacted by the sheer volume of free adult content available online. That would stand in sharp contrast to the notion that the adult industry is powerful enough to influence the HD-DVD/Blu-ray format war. In fact, despite the free content that's already online, industry analysts see the most profitable part of the porn market moving from DVD directly to the Internet... bypassing HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc entirely. Several adult producers have told us here at The Bits that the ultimate goal is to deliver high-definition adult content directly to computers and DVRs via broadband, without any physical media involved.
Here's yet another major HD story, and it's breaking news: A hacker or hackers on the Doom9 forums are reporting that they've actually managed to discover the so-called "processing key" that allows them to circumvent the AACS DRM protection on ALL HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc software. Naturally, the AACS Licensing Administrator is "investigating the claims." This could end up being a MAJOR story, so we'll watch how it develops. Reminds me of a classic Scotty quote from one of the Trek films: "The more they over think the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain." You can read more here at InfoWorld and here at engadget.
Finally today, I'm tickled to learn that I'm not the only media analyst that's earned the ire of a select group of... shall we say, passionate?... early adopters on the Net. CNet executive editor David Carnoy has apparently been flamed too by HD-DVD enthusiasts online for daring to suggest that HD-DVD may not have a rosy future. You can read his amusing editorial reaction here.
You know, the funny thing about all this is that I really like both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc just as video formats. They both deliver fantastic quality and features. But technically and quality-wise, this format war is basically a wash. Therefore, it's reasonable to assume that if this battle is going to be decided by anything, it will be other factors. Like which studios support each format, which manufacturers support each format, what the software and hardware sales trends are, etc. And in each of those areas, Blu-ray has developed a clear edge.
Let's look at these simple facts: Of the 12 major and mini-major Hollywood studios (Fox, Disney, MGM, Sony, Lionsgate, Paramount, New Line, HBO, Warner Bros, Universal, DreamWorks and The Weinstein Company) 9 support Blu-ray, 5 of them exclusively. Only 6 support HD-DVD, just 2 of them exclusively (one studio, DreamWorks, remains uncommitted). Not counting computer hardware or budget brands, Blu-ray Disc has 9 major set-top hardware manufacturers behind it (Sony, Pioneer, Samsung, Philips, Panasonic, LG, Mitsubishi, Thomson, Sharp), while HD-DVD boasts just two (Toshiba and now LG). HD-DVD is an add-on to Microsoft's Xbox 360, while Blu-ray is built into EVERY Sony PlayStation 3. Nielsen VideoScan is reporting that in software sales, Blu-ray has virtually erased the sales lead enjoyed by HD-DVD since the formats were launched, and is now outselling HD-DVD by a 2 to 1 (and growing) margin.
I can understand that some people just love HD-DVD and have had great experiences with it. We have too. I understand that some people hate Sony for perceived corporate arrogance. I'm not a big fan of their tactics either, particularly how they went around the DVD Forum to develop their format. But let's face it - the biggest corporate cheerleader for HD-DVD seems to be Microsoft, which isn't exactly comforting either. All of those issues aside, however, how do you argue with the facts that are clearly becoming obvious - namely, ALL those things I just mentioned above? Frankly, the best sales pitch the HD-DVD camp seems to be able to make right now is: "Hey, we've got DVD right in the name! Plus cheap off-brand players are on the way! And porn!" I guess I have to be the guy who states the obvious, but doesn't that seem a little odd to anyone?
The cheap players thing is worth addressing here. The reality is, price sensitivity isn't an issue in the first year or so of any new format. It's mostly just the early adopters who are interested at that point anyway. By the time a wider consumer base is starting to get interested, 2nd and 3rd generation players have entered the market and they're inevitably cheaper. What surprised me most at CES is just how aggressively the HD-DVD camp seems to be trying to drive their format's hardware prices as low as possible by bringing off-brand Asian manufactures into their fold. The arrival of ultra-cheap $100 and $50 players in the DVD industry is what spelled the end of DVD hardware profitability for the major CE manufacturers. So why INVITE this situation before your format is even a year old? It makes no business sense that I can see, unless it's a desperation play - a last ditch effort not to lose.
I've also heard people cite universal players as the answer to having two formats. But the problem with universal players is that while they make life easier for early adopters, they do nothing to clear up the mass consumer (or mainstream media) perception of a format war, so those folks still remain on the sidelines. In addition to that, universal players tend to cost more, which again doesn't affect early adopters that much but is one more strike against adoption by consumers at large, who are price sensitive.
As for porn... I've addressed that issue in the past, and you saw the Newsweek story posted above. Unlike the situation back in the days of VHS versus Betamax, cheap porn is already available everywhere on DVD and online. Porn is not going to decide this format war.
As I've said before, I like both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc. They're both great - they both deliver the goods. But there just isn't room for TWO great formats. And at this point, I just don't see any likely circumstance in which HD-DVD can evolve into a viable mass market consumer video format. I certainly can't recommend in good conscience that Bits readers commit to HD-DVD right now. I tell most readers who ask me about the format war to just stick with DVD, and wait until it's all over. But if they're prepared to risk their money now, and are eager to do so, I have to tell them that Blu-ray is the better bet.
Frankly, I wish this format war had never happened. I am SO sick and tired of endlessly debating the merits of one of these formats versus the other. I'm tired of talking to reps for studios that are sitting on the fence or straddling both formats, who gamely spout the diplomatic company line about how great both formats are on the record, but off the record tell you how sick they all are of the situation and how much more hassle and headache it's caused them having to support THREE formats (including standard DVD). And I'm tired of watching early adopters backbiting each other at every turn. I'd rather just be talking about all the great films being released on disc in high-definition. I truly don't care which format wins, as long as one wins. But as long as there are two competing formats, we ALL lose. Period. The home video industry is not like videogaming. People do not have the patience for two or even three separate formats. They want to go to the store, buy a disc and know that it's going to work when they get home. It's that simple. They don't want to have to worry about having to buy the red box, or the blue box... or even the red AND blue box.
I'd hate for the high-definition video format war to have the same outcome as the high-resolution audio format war did. DVD-Audio versus SACD ended in a stalemate, and most people just stuck with CDs or moved to MP3 downloads. But mark my words, if the HD-DVD/Blu-ray war lingers on, that's exactly where we're headed. All you enthusiasts that have trenched in to support your particular format of choice come hell or high water had better enjoy the movies you're getting now, because if both formats fizzle out, forget about ever getting deep catalog, or older classics that cost money to restore for HD - money that would have come from software sales that aren't happening because too many people stubbornly stuck to their guns and the format war dragged out until nobody cared anymore. I think Stephen Colbert said it best when predicting the future of the HD format war: "The winner will be the one you DON'T buy." There could be a lot more "truthiness" in that statement than some want to believe.
For the good of the video industry as a whole, and for the benefit of film fans everywhere, this format war needs to end and SOON. So how long do we all have to wait before we start acknowledging the elephant in the room: One of these formats is already winning... and, for better or worse, it isn't HD-DVD.