Seriously: I know maybe two-dozen people who've bought hi-def players. Only one of them bought a Blu-Ray. The HD DVD was superior as a set-top box, had a better set-top intalled base, had a better tie-rate with discs, was selling for half or a third of the price of Blu-Ray, and, as of early December, looked to have about equal software support. Oh, and its discs were cheaper than Blu-Ray, too. That was the state of affairs as of December 1, 2007. If I had told you then that Toshiba would be announcing their abandonment of the format 10 weeks later, you would thought I was crazy.
Heck, it really is crazy.
So what happened? Toronto's Globe & Mail has some good reporting on the subject, including a claim that Sony paid Warner Bros. $400 million to switch sides.
(If that figure is correct, I wonder why Sony didn't just lop $200 off the price of the PS3 to start with. That would have had the same effect of ending the format war AND it could have preserved the health of its game division. As things stand now, Sony may have sacrificed this generation of game console to win the hi-def format. I'd be interested to know, from a dollars-and-cents perspective, if that was a good trade off for them. Particularly if digital downloads like Apple TV really are both soon and next. Something I'm not convince of, btw.)
But there must be more to the story than this. The Blu-Ray shift seems to have started with the Christmas shopping season, before WB switched. And the rapidity with which Netflix and Wal-Mart jumped is also kind of startling. Particularly Wal-Mart, a mega-company that isn't accustomed to turning on a dime like that.
I'm sad to see HD DVD go. I was fortunate not to get burned too badly--I only bought it because I needed a new player and if I had bought a Blu-Ray, it would be obsolete already anyway (another fact which amazes me). Yesterday's USA Today carried a story which reported that the Blu-Ray camp was trying to figure out some sort of program to help HD DVD owners switch over. I can't understand what their incentive would be to do that, unless they see the victory over HD DVD as only the first war and are already gearing up to fight digital downloads.
If you see more on this, please drop me a note or leave a comment; it's all very interesting.
P.S.: Galley Friend B.W. says, Je ne regrette rien!
Toshiba's deputy general manager of HD DVD Olivier Van Wynendaele stated that it "wouldn't change anything that it did," and continued on to say that "circumstances saw to it that [Toshiba] had to make the decision not to continue, but that doesn't mean [the company] did anything wrong."
Really? Something tells me that Olivier may find that the culture of Japanese business executives takes a somewhat different view.
Update: CNET has some interesting numbers on disc and player royalties, hinting at how much Sony has to gain from Blu-Ray. So that's a fuzzy look at one side of the picture. Next we'd need some good guestimating at how much the PS3 flop has cost them.