Last week, Toshiba America let slip that their upcoming HD DVD players would require a firmware update before they could take advantage of some of the format's interactive features. The company is now backpeddling, stating that their first-generation players will support these features, at least those available at launch.
"Toshiba's first HD-DVD players will support the advanced content features called for by HD-DVD," said Junko Furuta, a company spokeswoman. She said the firmware upgrade will come into use when new features that aren't yet part of the interactive system are added.

"While our players will provide support for current HD-DVD advanced content from the start, we anticipate that the industry may add to these capabilities as HD-DVD continues to develop. Toshiba's players can be updated to support future applications and services, which may include downloading supplemental audio and video content, disc-related online shopping and other features yet to be imagined."
Between this and AACS not being finalized, I have a feeling that early adopters are going to be in for a rough ride. If you'd like to read more, the entire article can be found here. Add a comment
While the final specs for the new Advanced Access Content System (AACS) have not been approved, an interim license agreement has been made available. Thanks to this agreement, the Blu-ray and HD DVD camps should be able to release their products on time.
Toshiba American Consumer Products on Thursday announced an ambitious marketing push in support of HD-DVD but conceded that some of the high-definition optical disc format's interactive features won't be available in the two first-generation players slated to hit stores next month without a "firmware upgrade."

Meanwhile, sources close to the rival Blu-ray Disc camp say an agreement has been reached on an interim license for the AACS copy-protection system both formats will use, removing one of the final obstacles that had been standing in the way of a launch.
While the Blu-ray Disc group has not announced a launch date, HD DVD players and movies are expected to hit store shelves in March. If you'd like to read more, the entire article can be found here. Add a comment
I came across an interesting article over at Engadget this morning. According to the author, Microsoft wants both HD DVD and Blu-ray to fail in order that digitally distributed video can succeed.
"Simple. Microsoft really has nothing to gain from either format winning. Just listen to any of Gates' recent interviews and how he talks about discs as a necessary evil until the world is ready for media-free distribution. That said, Microsoft has much to gain from both formats losing. Think back to the format war between DVD-Audio and SACD. Both formats lost and it was a computer company that stepped in to become the new center of the digital music universe.

"Microsoft was a bit late to the game for that one, but it's making a big investment into securing Windows Vista for Hollywood as well as ensuring that Portable Media Centers work with DirecTV set-tops. Microsoft gets to sell DRM software and Windows Mobile licenses so that consumers can take this stuff on the go. All of that is a lot less likely if the content is trapped in a 5-inch round jail, regardless of which camp is the warden.
While an interesting theory, I don't buy it. One thing the author is forgetting is that Microsoft is the developer of iHD. If HD DVD became the dominant format, the company could potentially make a small fortune thanks to royalty payments. In any case, if you'd like to read more, the entire article can be found here. Add a comment
Toshiba has announced that they will be touring the US, promoting the launch of their HD DVD players.
Toshiba America Consumer Products, L.L.C. ("Toshiba"), announced today details of an integrated marketing communications plan to launch its line-up of HD DVD players. The Toshiba HD DVD players, models HD-XA1 and HD-A1, will be the first HD DVD players to hit the U.S. market and will begin shipping to retailers in

The multi-tiered initiative is designed to educate retail salespeople, provide them with support materials to aid in the sale of the HD DVD players and continue to increase consumer awareness of HD DVD players.
The tour starts on February 20th and will continue through April, stopping at more than 40 US cities along the way. If you'd like to read more about the HD DVD Tour, Toshiba's entire press release can be found here. Add a comment
Thanks to Reuters, we've learned that Sony is the first major studio to announce pricing for its upcoming Blu-ray disc titles.
Sony Pictures on Tuesday became the first major studio to put a price tag on Blu-ray discs when they become available in U.S. stores this year.

At the same time, the studio unveiled what many observers believe will be a key component of the next-generation, high-definition optical disc's marketing strategy: bundling various formats together to give consumers more flexibility and mobility.

Catalog Blu-ray disc titles will wholesale for $17.95, about the same as DVDs when that format hit the market in 1997. New-release Blu-ray discs will wholesale for $23.45, a premium of 15%-20% over what suppliers were charging for new theatrical DVDs.
Keep in mind, these are wholesale prices. Retail pricees are expected to be $5-15 higher, making new releases as much as $39. Needless to say, I'll be holding onto my DVD player, at least until prices come down. If you'd like to read more, the entire article can be found here. Add a comment
Philips has announced that they have been showcasing their Blu-ray Disc products at the Sundance Film Festival. By doing so, they hope that filmmakers, actors and other members of the entertainment industry will see the benefits of this new technology.
At the nation's premiere film festival this week, film industry executives and dozens of celebrities received a glimpse at the future of storage and playback technology for high-definition (HD) video content through demonstrations of Blu-ray Disc media in Philips' Simplicity Lounge. Its third year at the festival, Philips created the Simplicity Lounge in order to showcase current and future technology to industry VIPs and media, with an emphasis on products that enhance the viewing experience of TV and movie content for consumers.
If you'd like to read more, Philips' entire press release can be found here, Add a comment
Here's some unfortunate news for early HDTV adopters. It looks like late changes in the Advanced Access Content System (AACS) will cause a downgrade in picture quality when the signal is sent through analogue connections.
In a deal reached this week after tense negotiations, the eight-company consortium behind the Advanced Access Content System, created for use by both high-def formats to prevent unauthorized copying, has agreed to require hardware makers to bar some high-def signals from being sent from players to displays over analog connections, sources said.

Instead, the affected analog signal must be "down-converted" from the full 1920x1080 lines of resolution the players are capable of outputting to 960x540 lines—a resolution closer to standard DVDs than to high-def. Standard DVDs are typically encoded at 720 horizontal by 480 vertical lines of resolution.
It's hard to say at this point just how many people will be affected, but I think it's fair to say that many current HDTV owners will not be happy with this news. For more information, the whole article can be found here. Add a comment
At CES, Microsoft's Corporate Vice President of Interactive Entertainment Business, Peter Moore, commented that the Xbox 360 could eventually support the Blu-ray format. Microsoft has now reaffirming their committment to HD DVD, stating that they have no plans to support other optical formats.
Last week we reported that Microsoft would leave open the possibility that its next-gen console could one day support Blu-ray if that format ended up winning the war against HD DVD. This was based upon comments made by Microsoft's Corporate Vice President of Interactive Entertainment Business Peter Moore to Japanese website ITmedia during CES.

However, Moore's comments, which made the rounds not long after MS announced plans for an external HD DVD drive for the Xbox 360, were taken out of context, the company insists. To clear up any confusion, MS has issued a statement to the effect that they are 100 percent behind Toshiba's HD DVD format.
Microsoft would be smart to release both HD DVD and Blu-ray drives and let consumers decide which is best. Then again, that's not really the Microsoft way. If you'd like to read more, the entire article can be found here. Add a comment
While Samsung had originally planned to introduce a combination Blu-ray/HD DVD player, the company has run into a major roadblock. Surprisingly enough, its not a technical one either. According to Engadget, there are licensing agreements in place, preventing a dual-mode player.
Last we heard, things degraded from gung-ho to so-so for Samsung on the prospect of going in on a dual-mode device that'd bridge the gap between HD DVD and Blu-ray for the consumer. But it looks like guarded has now turned to closed-until-further-notice according to a SVP of Marketing at Samsung North America, Peter Weedfald. We had no idea there were licensing agreements in place that prevented a dual-mode player, but apparently "Until everyone agrees to check their egos at the door and help the consumer, there is nothing [Samsung] can do about a universal product."
While a dual-mode player would be best for the consumer, it probably would not be cheap. If you'd like to read more, the entire article can be found here. Add a comment
Here's an interesting bit of news. At CES, Microsoft's Corporate Vice President, Peter Moore, mentioned that the Xbox 360 could eventually support the Blu-ray format.
In the wake of Microsoft's CES announcement of a peripheral HD-DVD drive for the Xbox 360, the company's gaming division boss Peter Moore has revealed that a Blu-Ray drive could also be on the cards for the system.

Speaking with Japanese website ITMedia at the huge electronics show in Las Vegas last week, Moore said that a Blu-Ray drive for the Xbox 360 could be released if the Blu-Ray standard, which is backed by Sony, wins the next-generation DVD format battle.
Of course, like with HD DVD, Blu-ray would probably be used only for movies and not for games. If you'd like to read more, head on over to Add a comment