With Sony scoring victory after victory on the optical disc format front with Blu-ray, word on the street concerning rival format HD-DVD has not kind over the past few days. One of the primary developer of HD-DVD technologies, Toshiba, tried to quell fears over its disc format earlier this week, but it appears to be of little use. Today Toshiba itself has confirmed that it is officially pulling the plug on HD-DVD business and development, at least for movies. Toshiba intends to support its allies who are still aboard the HD-DVD ship including Paramount and Microsoft. Former HD-DVD backer Universal Studios meanwhile will be turning to Blu-ray.
The HD-DVD format entered the consumer market just a few months before Sony's competing Blu-ray standard did back in early 2006; according to Toshiba, it had sold approximately 1 million dedicated HD-DVD players as of January 2008. Close to 400 movie titles have been distributed on HD-DVD thus far in North America alone. However, Sony gained major traction with Blu-ray over the past few weeks, and struck gold when Warner Bros. confirmed it would back Sony's format exclusively starting this May. The hits just kept coming with major retailers like Wal-mart and Best Buy opting to decrease support for HD-DVD titles, if not dropping it altogether.
"We carefully assessed the long-term impact of continuing the so-called 'next-generation format war' and concluded that a swift decision will best help the market develop," said Atsutoshi Nishida, President and CEO of Toshiba Corporation. "While we are disappointed for the company and more importantly, for the consumer, the real mass market opportunity for high definition content remains untapped and Toshiba is both able and determined to use our talent, technology and intellectual property to make digital convergence a reality."
"It was a heartbreaking decision, but we considered the impact of continuing the business on our earnings, the next-generation DVD market and consumers."
Since 2005, Microsoft backed Toshiba in HD-DVD development. Just one example of the fruits of their partnership can be seen in the support for HD-DVD (versus Blu-ray) on Microsoft's Xbox 360 console through an external peripheral player. Microsoft would make clear that it did not intend to make a fuss over next-gen optical disc formats for its video game console business, though the company claims its HD-DVD player would be one of the best-selling accessories for the Xbox 360.
Perhaps Microsoft already had the inside scoop on Toshiba's plans for scapping HD-DVD, as the software/console giant began slashing prices on Xbox 360 HD-DVD players earlier this month. Nevertheless the company remains adamant that the Xbox 360's future planning will not be greatly affected by Toshiba's announcement. Indeed, despite support for HD-DVD the Xbox 360 never used the format for its actual game software.
As for Toshiba itself, the company could still support HD-DVD outside of movies as both HD-DVD and Blu-ray also exist as (very expensive) data storage mediums for the home and business computing markets.