This is about as sweet an about-face as you’ll see in business: Toshiba, proponent of the failed HD video disc format HD-DVD, is due to swallow its pride and release a Blu-ray machine later this year. It’s fabulous news for consumers.
The HD-DVD versus Blu-ray battle hit the news plenty while it played out last year: Each was proclaimed as a high-definition successor to the DVD, with added bonus content, and each had its own strengths and weaknesses. HD-DVD, pushed by its principle designer Toshiba, was backwards-compatible with DVD and CD formats, whereas Blu-ray isn’t. Blu-ray, on the other hand, uses a Java-based system to drive its enhanced disc content, while HD-DVD used Microsoft’s proprietary iHD format.
Ultimately Blu-ray won the war, with its powerful backers including Sony and Panasonic, and last year Toshiba declared HD-DVD as defunct. But, since then Blu-ray hasn’t had the explosive growth in the consumer market it was clearly expected to have–partly thanks to the economic downturn, and partly through high costs of the discs and players.
Which is why Toshiba’s announcement is great from the consumer’s point of view. This is purely and simply a good business decision by Toshiba. Clearly the company’s business analysts have examined the Blu-ray market, looked for trends and detailed the finances, and deemed that the situation has developed to the point Toshiba should simply adopt the rival format, and release its own Blu-ray player. In other words, Toshiba thinks there’s enough of a market forming to support sales of its player over its rivals–and that means that prices will be falling in real terms for both the Blu-ray media and players. This year could be the one that Blu-ray really takes off–particularly if Sony’s Blu-ray-playing rumored PS3 Slim is a real product due soon at a lower price that the current PlayStation 3.