HD DVD Fallout Could Create Marketing Nightmare

The Blu-ray high definition DVD format moves to the forefront at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, as Toshiba begins to face the fallout. The buzz that began after Warner Bros.' announcement last week to stop pressing movies in the HD DVD format now appears as a loud roar.

The Time Warner studio's plans to back the Blu-ray disc format will have it stop distributing movies in HD DVD later this year. Warner Bros.' crushing blow to the HD DVD format could soon become a marketing nightmare.

Toshiba had been expected to introduce a fourth-generation HD DVD player at this year's CES, but during the press and analyst presentation on Sunday spent less than five minutes talking about the technology. The only mention of the format came at the end, along with an accompanying press release.

"Blu-ray recorders record 30% more information than HD DVD, and they always will," says Ron Cameron, training manager at Panasonic, who adds that the players with recorders selling in Japan today will move into the U.S. market in 2009. "Consumers are building an incredible library of movies, and when Blu-ray recorders come to the United States, those who bought HD DVD players will want to know why the salesperson didn't tell them."



Cameron believes Warner Bros. made the move to Blu-ray because of the long list of companies supporting the technology.

Los Angeles-based marketing consultant Rochelle Winters believes it's a moot point because in 10 years, when today's 15- to 20-year-olds become the main buying public, everything will be digitally downloaded. "There doesn't seem to be a craving for a high-resolution home experience, except for sports, among the next generation of consumers," she says.

"On the plane from Burbank to Las Vegas, I overhead a retail executive talk to a young store manager about reorganizing the store floor to reflect what he saw as the new supremacy of the Blu-ray format."

Warner Bros.' departure from the technology leaves Paramount and Universal as primary HD DVD backers. Reports from conference-goers say it appears that Toshiba remains committed to the format and that talk of the demise is premature.

Meanwhile, Panasonic, Philips and Sony announced new Blu-ray players. Sony moved forward to roll out a high-definition version of its spherical digital living room PC, the VAIO TP Home Theater PC. The media hub integrates a Blu-ray Disc drive, built-in DVR and BRAVIA Sync technology for one-touch play. The model comes with two external CableCARD TV tuners to watch and record both HD programs simultaneously.

Sony also introduced a sub-$200 internal BD-ROM drive that can upgrade an existing desktop computer into a high-definition Blu-ray Disc player, as well as a DVD and a CD player. The BDU-X10S drive comes with CyberLink's PowerDVD BD Edition software for playback of commercial movie titles, recorded Blu-ray Disc home videos, DVD-ROMs and CD-ROMs.

Panasonic debuted its first integrated home theater system with a Blu-ray player. The unit will play standard-definition DVDs, support Blu-ray's depth of colors, and offer Dolby TruHD and DTS-HD 7.2 surround audio.

Philips plans to begin selling a $349 Blu-ray high-definition DVD player in April. The Philips BDP7200 player, which offers picture-in-picture, is expected to display video in 1080p.

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