Thursday, July 19, 2007


This is more in the interest of full disclosure than of intimate communication, but I figured it's only fair to give the packs of Sony-loving readers some ammunition for when they accuse me of being an anti-Sony malcontent.

Pursuant to my question the other day, I finally decided to get an HD-DVD player. Not that you care--but I want to give a short defense of this decision in order to attempt to protect my objectivity on Blu-Ray/HD-DVD matters going forward.

So let me start with this: This is not a Harry Knowles-like decision. All of my "director friends" are not swearing by HD-DVD. It's not even clear to me that HD-DVD is going to win the format war. In spite of my great misgivings about Blu-Ray, I find some of the Blu-Ray inevitability arguments relating to the importance of content very, very persuasive. I won't be shocked if, in 24 months, Blu-Ray emerges as the dominant format.

So what does HD-DVD have going for it? Price. (And for me, necessity; I needed a new DVD player asap.) The HD-DVD player I bought cost less than half of the entry-level Blu-Ray machine and amounted to only $100 more than a standard, solid upconverting player (it was even a bit cheaper than the higher-end Oppo unit that everyone seems to love so much; *and* it comes with five free HD-DVD movies).

What I did was basically place a very small bet on the HD-DVD format that, win or lose, will be spread over at least 18 to 24 months. That's low-stakes poker. So much so that I think I'll be able to stay reasonably objective on Blu-Ray/HD-DVD matters going forward.

My basic analysis of which still stands: If a new hi-def disc format takes off in the near term, I think HD-DVD will do very well. They've got the cheaper players and if they take a sizable lead in the stand-alone player market over the next 18 months or so, then there's a chance Fox and/or Disney will peel off from Blu-Ray and become platform agnostic, which puts them in a strong position going forward. If, however, Blu-Ray keeps the stand-alone numbers close until they get their price down in the $200-range, then I think their content advantage eventually overwhelms HD-DVD. (Remember that in all of this the presence of upconversion somewhat mitigates the advantages of content exclusivity and, to my cheap-skate mind, gives more importance to price-point.)

And then there's the Sony thing: Every time I think about Blu-Ray's advantages I'm brought back to Sony's PS3 non-price-drop, and I think, This is the gang that can't shoot straight. How on earth could they ever win a format war?

In sum, I'm happy with my HD-DVD, at least for now. The Toshiba HD-A2 is pretty much a dream: easy set-up, sensible nav menus, and very solid upconversion. If it becomes obsolete and I have to buy a $200 Blu-Ray in a couple years then it's no big deal--I needed a new DVD player in the interim anyway. If this turns out to be the player I keep for the next 10 years, then that's a bonus.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Never underestimate Sony's capacity to lose a format war. I worked for a company that bet the farm on Sony's truly superior AIT tape for computer backup. I didn't end pretty.