For months, the so-called DVD format wars have been mostly theoretical — but now, the real marketplace battle is finally getting underway. Sony and Toshiba, two of the frontrunners in the race, will face off with competing technologies, with Samsung being the first to make Sony’s Blu-ray strike against Toshiba’s HD DVD possible. Samsung is coming to market next week with a Blu-ray player that will play Sony’s Blu-ray-based DVDs.
“The emergence of Blu-ray is an enormous boon for HDTV owners, video enthusiasts, and for those who actively seek the best picture and sound possible in their home theater,” said Jim Sanduski, senior vice president of marketing for Samsung’s audio and video products group.
Sony’s Helping Hand
Sony Pictures has anxiously awaited the arrival of Samsung’s BD-P100. The machine sells for US$999.99 — twice the price of machines that play HD DVD discs — however, there may be more content available in the short-term for the Blu-ray player.
Blu-ray enjoys the support of most Hollywood studios, including Disney, MGM and Twentieth Century Fox. Sony on Tuesday released the first seven films in the new Blu-ray format. Titles include “50 First Dates,” “Hitch,” and “House of Flying Daggers.”
Playing Both Sides
Samsung, though, appears to be playing both sides of the DVD fence. The company is rumored to be developing a Blu-ray HD dual-format drive. The universal HD DVD player could be available at the end of this year or early next year, demonstrating Samsung’s assumption that these format wars could continue for some time.
“From the hardware perspective it makes sense for companies to consider a hybrid player,” IDC analyst Josh Martin told TechNewsWorld. “It’s an opportunity to mitigate against HD DVD staying on the market longer than expected.”
Sony, Samsung and other Blu-ray supporters showed up a little late to the battle line. Toshiba began selling its $499 HD DVD player in March. Universal Pictures stands with Toshiba in the format war, while Warner Bros. and Paramount support both formats.
That may not be enough to keep Toshiba in the fight, analysts said. However, Toshiba is taking the battle a step further. The company on Thursday said it would start selling the first recorders for HD DVD next month in Japan. The recorder will come equipped with 1 terabyte of hard disk space and sell for 398,000 yen, or $3,425. Sony has been offering Blu-ray-based recorders since 2003 at a retail price of 450,000 yen ($3,873).
The HD DVD battle goes beyond movies. Sony faces opposition from Microsoft in the video game console space as well. Microsoft backs the HD DVD format and has plans to make a high-definition disc drive available for its Xbox 360 game console later his year.
Sony, of course, has selected Blu-ray as the foundation of its strategy to transform Playstation 3 from merely a video game console to a full-fledged networked home entertainment center. The Playstation 3 is expected to launch in November.
Sony may have memories of the last entertainment format war it fought — and lost. Sony went toe to toe with rival JVC in the 1980s in a battle between VHS and Betamax, but Martin, for one, believes Sony will win this time around.