With several announcements at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas this week, the high-definition landscape has become a quagmire. The hi-def war was once a simple battle between Sony’s Blu-ray and Toshiba’s HD-DVD–each format with its benefits and its supporters. Warner Bros. has announced they have created a hybrid format called Total Hi-Def or THD. These discs have Blu-ray on one side and HD-DVD on the other, allowing consumers to buy the disc and not worry that it won’t play in their player. While WB has not released details on price or availability yet, I wish it would happen soon and other companies pay WB to have their films on THD.
Korean electronics maker LG took a similar route, but on the hardwire side. They announced they will release the “Super Multi Blue” player in the next few months that can play either Blu-ray or HD-DVD. It is expected to sell for $1,199. One would hope all of the manufacturers could license the technology, thus ending the hi-def format war. Or would it? The console war between Microsoft and Sony would continue the duel between the formats, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that over 90% of Blu-ray players sold are Sony’s PlayStation 3 and more than half of HD-DVD players come from the HD-DVD add-on for Microsoft’s Xbox 360.
And what does this mean for videophiles and film enthusiasts? Do they go for the Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive or the PS3, cheaper alternatives to stand-alone hi-def disc players? Do they wait for LG’s player or the “Super Multi Blue” technology to be integrated into other companies’ players? Do they not buy any hi-def films until THD discs are released, or until one format wins over the other? With such a messy competition, many may wait for both formats to fail and stick with downloading high definition movies–already possible at several websites, on the Xbox 360 and on the upcoming Apple TV.
However this war ends, with one format destroying the other or both barely surviving, a group of consumers will lose out. Early adoption can definitely be a pain.