Blu-ray Triumphant!

Or so it looks.

blu-ray_logo.jpgI’m not one to make sweeping pronouncements (really, it’s not in my character), but the momentum is pretty indisputable. Netflix and Best Buy threw their support behind Blu-ray earlier this week, and on Friday Wal-Mart announced they would stock Blu-ray as their exclusive high-definition video format. Here’s the Wired report on the announcement. The New York Times has already provided HD DVD’s obituary.

I like to think of it in terms of the primary campaigns. Just a couple of months ago, the format war resembled the Democratic campaign, with studios split between the Blu-ray and HD DVD. When Warner and Fox committed to Blu-ray exclusively, it tipped the balance and the metaphor jumped parties. Now it’s akin to the Republican primaries with Blu-ray as the John McCain campaign. Now everyone’s just waiting for the HD-uckabee to toss in the towel and give in to the inevitable momentum.


A few friends have been keeping much closer tabs on the politics of high-definition. Seattle film critic Jeff Shannon sent me this link from the US News and World Report blog about the Netflix decision earlier this week.

Nils von Veh followed up with this E-mail, which I reprint with his permission.

This news has certainly gotten a LOT of people’s attention.

There was another blurb about it here:

Which led me to the other significant news item that Best Buy is now solidly in this camp too.

I guess we all might be buying PS3’s soon??

Some rather interesting behind-the-scenes info here:

Although I hasten to add that the vast majority of consumers could absolutely care less because they are totally happy with their current DVD playback. Which is borne out by Netflix data and many other articles in the last six months. The most recent of which was this one:

Blu-ray vs. HD DVD: Who Cares?

Which of course also leads to things like this:

I think this recent NYT blog lays out the REAL sitch really well.

You’re Not Buying Gadgets, You Are Subscribing to Them

Note also that the PS3 has a port that makes it one of the few current Blu-Ray playback devices that allows for future updates….

New Blu-ray 2.0 spec makes PS3 the most future-proof player

In addition there were some things that Jeff exchanged notes about last summer that you may or may not have been copied on. When I moved to an HD display (2 yrs. ago), I very consciously invested in a DVDO video scaler/ line doubler (whatever you want to call it..) box knowing full well that this whole HD/ Blu-Ray mess would last a while.

A good review of the box I got a couple of years ago:

The bottom line is that I do know that HD on DVD in either format looks better than current DVD’s. But they don’t in fact look THAT much better than my upscaled DVD’s on my HD screen. So while things are getting closer to being interesting for me, I still don’t have that much of a reason/ incentive to make the leap. The fact that Netflix rents Blu-Ray discs along with the price point of the PS3 is what is likely to get me to stick my toe in the water later this year once the dust settles a little more. But I am in absolutely no hurry.


Thanks, Nils.

Oh, and rest in peace, HD DVD.


Update 2/16/08:

Though there has been no formal announcement, a number of publications have been reporting that Toshiba is surrending in the format wars. Here is Japan’s Daily Yomiuri online:

According to sources close to Toshiba, the firm will hold a board meeting in the near future to formally decide to abandon production of HD DVD recorders and players and other related accessories.

Toshiba is likely to maintain sales of HD DVD recorders and players for a while, but is expected to stop producing players for personal computers and recorders for televisions, and drop the development of new products.

And (according to PC World), NHK has reported that Toshiba has already halted production on HD DVD players.

“We are making considerations following the impact on sales of Warner’s announcement but we haven’t made any decision,” said Keisuke Ohmori, a spokesman for Toshiba, when reached on Saturday evening.


Update 2/19/08

Toshiba formally surrenders in the format war.

See The Wall Street Journal report and commentary. Everyone’s playing commentator now. Here are few pieces from PC World (including this piece with a conspiratorial angle on the format war), The Washington Post, Variety, and the A.P. (via the New York Times).

Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website ( I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View ( I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly,, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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