HD DVD is Dead: A Retrospective

The next-generation format war has been quite the bitter battle, but it's obvious which format has come out on top. HD DVD is effectively dead, much to dismay of its major supporters. This must also be a big pain to any early adopters, because that black box with a blue laser is pretty much useless. Or at least it will be in a couple of months when the major studios stop releasing new movies in that format. Sucks to be you.

But how did it come to be like this? How did the Sony-backed Blu-ray format manage to stomp all over the Toshiba-backed HD DVD? After all, the HD DVD format came out of the DVD Forum, the same people that populated our homes with DVD movies. It was a tried and true name that people would recognize, but it just wasn't enough.

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thats nothing new... SOny spent all of its marketing budget on just getting companies to back their format... Toshiba beleive it or not spent its marketing budget on actual marketing... says the million dollar super bowl add...

Just to add I work retail we sell no home entertainemnt BD recorders and we only had the Sony Computer one [799 when it first came out and at closeout 599 still did not sell] which was pulled cause it did not sell. The only BD recorders we have are BD players with DVD-R recording.

With consumers it boils down to 2 things:

Price [HD-DVD had this one]
Availability [Sony had this thanks to PS3]

The only factor that made BD bead HD was the PS3 if MS had stood by their partner and made the 360 a HD-DVD player this discussion would be the opposite. Secondly add in if Toshiba released Home Theater recorders and computer recorders we would have bee having this oppiste talk about 6mo. ago.

However, the article *itself* shows that Sony basically undercut standalone BD players (not just those of other companies, but even its own) to push the PS3 (worse, the trend has continued, as not a single standalone BD player matches up with the PS3 BD feature for BD feature for less than twice the PS3's price tag). Throw in Sony giving the studios what they have long desired (strong DRM, and especially region protection, which HD DVD lacks by design), and HD DVD was in trouble from the get-go. However, Sony has, in effect, created an artificially low *ceiling* price for standalone fully-featured BD players with the PS3 (why would anyone pay more than the $399USD price for any BD player, when they can get a PS3 for that)? Sony well admits that it loses money on the PS3; they have, in effect, guaranteed that the PS3 will continue to lose money. Unless some company where both parts and labor are hypercheap (read: the PRC) manages to produce what is basically a near-knockoff of the PS3's BD capabilities (and that certainly hasn't come to pass yet), Sony, despite the *open-ness* of BD, has pretty much locked down the marketplace for players to companies willing to throw away money (consider that Sony loses more money on a per-player basis than Toshiba, which got chased out). Sony and the BD backers won by giving the content providers what they wanted (strong DRM and the same region protection that SD DVD already had) as well as Sony itself showing a willingness to lose money on hardware (which they certainly weren't willing to do with the Beta format, which plain and simply got its clock cleaned in a price war). Also, what good are the inexpensive BD recorders (inexpensive only relatively in terms of capacity), when the *media* is still extremely expensive? (Here's a sickening fact; it's still cheaper to use good old magnetic hard drives as offline storage than BD in terms of cost per gigabyte *entirely* because the cost of BD media remains high.)

So, let's review what the Sony/BD team did:

1. Stuck to the same model that had already been established by SD DVD (strong DRM and region protection) for content; thereby protecting the content providers from casual piracy.
2. Establishing high blank media pricing (ensuring that BD does *not* become the new DVD-R/RW by pricing the media out of reach), further protecting the content providers.
3. Keeping hardware costs high (remember, the PS3 is still the cheapest standalone BD player available, and Sony loses money on it) preventing player-price erosion.

The first two items are the biggies, as it kept the battle with HD DVD from being about price. Instead, the battle was fought over content, and protection of that content. (The trade association for the movie studios *is* the Motion Picture Association of America, who has had, for the longest time, Jack Valenti as president and public flack, who has been buddy-buddy with Ms. Anti-filesharing, Hilary Rosen, then of the RIAA; and you wonder why HD DVD had adoption issues?) So the content providers win, while we consumers get screwed, short, medium, *and* long-term.

Here's a sickening fact; it's still cheaper to use good old magnetic hard drives as offline storage than BD in terms of cost per gigabyte *entirely* because the cost of BD media remains high

Here's an equally sickening fact: DVD recordables were just as expensive in the beginning. And guess what? Prices fell. BD media started out at around $20, and now it's below $10.

consider that Sony loses more money on a per-player basis than Toshiba, which got chased out

This is patently untrue now. It's been posted elsewhere (Google the links yourself, learn to do research and not listen to the FUD) that Sony does not lose money on PS3 production anymore, and Toshiba was bleeding millions on their firesales.

You also continue the FUD of Sony, Sony, Sony. Sony is not the BDA. Matter of fact, Sony wanted Microsoft's HDi as part of the BD spec but were outvoted by the rest of the BDA, who chose Java. Sony's own discs do not employ BD+, so your "stronger DRM by Sony" argument falls flat.

BD is THREE regions. DVD is SEVEN. Same, eh? Not to mention that it's OPTIONAL, unlike DVD (example Warner BD discs are region free, Sony & Disney discs catalog titles are as well).

The only consumers getting screwed are the folks who listened to this type of misinformation and poured money down Toshiba's hardware monopoly/patent money grab.

(PeterTHX said @ #9.1)

Here's an equally sickening fact: DVD recordables were just as expensive in the beginning. And guess what? Prices fell. BD media started out at around $20, and now it's below $10.

This is patently untrue now. It's been posted elsewhere (Google the links yourself, learn to do research and not listen to the FUD) that Sony does not lose money on PS3 production anymore, and Toshiba was bleeding millions on their firesales.

You also continue the FUD of Sony, Sony, Sony. Sony is not the BDA. Matter of fact, Sony wanted Microsoft's HDi as part of the BD spec but were outvoted by the rest of the BDA, who chose Java. Sony's own discs do not employ BD+, so your "stronger DRM by Sony" argument falls flat.

BD is THREE regions. DVD is SEVEN. Same, eh? Not to mention that it's OPTIONAL, unlike DVD (example Warner BD discs are region free, Sony & Disney discs catalog titles are as well).

The only consumers getting screwed are the folks who listened to this type of misinformation and poured money down Toshiba's hardware monopoly/patent money grab.

AMEN BROTHER!!! I too am sick of the FUD being spread around.

(PeterTHX said @ #9.1)

Here's an equally sickening fact: DVD recordables were just as expensive in the beginning. And guess what? Prices fell. BD media started out at around $20, and now it's below $10.

This is patently untrue now. It's been posted elsewhere (Google the links yourself, learn to do research and not listen to the FUD) that Sony does not lose money on PS3 production anymore, and Toshiba was bleeding millions on their firesales.


Really, did anyone let Sony know that, the PS3 rocks, but they are losing money still. http://www.playstatic.com/news/1107

How did the Sony/Panasonic/Sharp/Pioneer/Philips/Hitachi/Samsung/LG/Denon-backed Blu-ray format manage to stomp all over the Toshiba-backed HD DVD?

the HD DVD format came out of the DVD Forum, the same people that populated our homes with the confusing DVD -R and +R burner format war

Fixed it and in the process answered their questions.

For those complaining about lack of advertising, well, having more than one company make and market a format spreads the ad money around, as opposed to a hardware monopoly artificially cutting prices. When you're losing hundreds of dollars per player you don't have that much money to throw away on commercials featuring Michael Imperioli (da ach dee dee vee dee...)

HD-DVD didn't come out of the DVD forum. Toshiba developed HD-DVD when Blu-ray was already in the making, only because they saw a better opportunity at making profits. It didnt work out and screwed up a lot of consumers in the process. DVD forum eventually chose to back HD-DVD, but that was only politics.

I dont think neither was better than the other, strictly. Everything that people claim HD-DVD is good for, Blu-ray can eventually do. If they had wanted to, they could've made it region free, and implement whatever software layer HD-DVD had, and you have a great format. The fact that the goal could be achieved with either format, makes the whole war unnecessary. HD-DVD was unnecessary, simply because Blu-ray was already there. The companies behind HD-DVD should've pushed for Blu-ray to include all those features they wanted, and avoid the war. But HD-DVD was 'juicier' choice for them.

Toshiba and Microsoft have hurt HD media adoption in catastrofic proportions. IMO, Blu-ray was the most future proof, but meh, their half-assed efforts at promoting the format, only prolonged the war and screwed many consumers. And all the FUD being spread now about how upconverting is just fine, it's making me sick.

Maybe a huge fact also being...

HD-DVD = 15GB Single Layer, 30GB Dual Layer
Blu Ray = 25GB Single Layer, 50GB Dual Layer

Why would companies NOT want the better disc. Seriously.

Better to who? HD-DVD was region free, meaning you could buy movies/shows from say the UK, and they would play anywhere. Can't do that with BluRay, which kind of sucks. Either way, I support BluRay anyway, since I own a PS3. HD-DVD was also cheaper. Remember Betamax? "Better" format, yet it lost.

Wicko, don't believe the FUD thrown around about region coding.

Region coding on Blu-ray is OPTIONAL. Warner & Paramount don't use it.

Companies like Sony or Disney only use it on new day & date releases. Anything more than a year old is ALL REGION coded. Even a Pixar movie like Cars can be played on any BD player anywhere, no matter where purchased.

Fox, who would never have released on HD DVD anyway due to copy protection, is the only studio hard region locking catalog titles. Even then, the BDA recommends all catalog titles to be all region.

New Line Cinema would NOT release newer movies on HD DVD because of the lack of region coding. Titles like Hairspray, Shoot 'Em Up, Rush Hour 3 never saw HD DVD release because of this. Originally the plan was to release them later (6 months - 1 year) but you saw how the format war ended up. Anyway, what is good about the lack of region coding when a studio won't release titles because of the lack of region coding?

Remains to be seen what Univeral (Blu-ray newbie) will do as far as region coding their titles.

As far as Beta being better...in many ways it was. But capacity wise, VHS SP was 2 hours and the highest quality beta recording time was only one.
Finally, only one company, Sony, supported Beta. The majority of the consumer electronics industry supported VHS.
HD DVD was pretty much only Toshiba, where everyone else supported Blu-ray.

I really don't think most consumers care about region encoding or even know of its existence hence it not really being a significant deciding factor.

My stuff will still work regardless if they make new movies. So no it doesn't suck to be me.

This must also be a big pain to any early adopters, because that black box with a blue laser is pretty much useless. Or at least it will be in a couple of months when the major studios stop releasing new movies in that format. Sucks to be you.

Actually one thing toshiba can do to sway a win out of this is to release a cheap recorder to the public. If people are given an alternative to DVD-R or dare I say VHS recording they will switch.

Once Microsoft decided not to have a HD-DVD drive built in they should have came out with HD-DVD recorders both for home entertainment and computers. While late this could still turn the tide because what it can play is less important than how much it can record. It would be looked had as more hours for tv recorders or morecapacity for computer users. If they are going to do this now though they need to rush these to retail with blank discs asap.

Blu-ray recorders are reasonably priced. So much that I'm considering getting one. Apparently, Toshiba's HD-DVD recorders never stood a chance against Blu-ray recorders, not even the crappiest ones

Or it could just be more money sunk. If I were an investor in Toshiba I would want them to just move on and focus on other projects. Seems to me that in this current world where DVRs and TIVOs are becoming the norm, people seem less concerned with VCRs and DVD disc recorders.

(Shadrack said @ #5.2)
Seems to me that in this current world where DVRs and TIVOs are becoming the norm, people seem less concerned with VCRs and DVD disc recorders.

That, plus most people usually use television recording devices for time shifting purposes. Wasting write-once discs on shows that will likely be watched only once after recording isn't such a sound idea.

To me what the fatal mistake was the fact that no low cost HD-DVD burner for the computer came out. They released an expensive HD-DVD ROM drive which just doesn't fly anymore.

NOTE TO MANUFACTURERS: READ ONLY DRIVES ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE.

They are, I mean, that's how both CD and DVD started.
The HD-DVD camp couldn't get the recorder part ready for the market, anyway. Apparently, HD-DVD writers sucked so much that they werent even worth it. So much for Blu-ray being the "incomplete" format, when HD-DVD couldn't get the writing part right.

Blu-ray failed to implement the "software" layer of the format, for movie playing purposes. After all, I doubt it is that complicated to throw in some cheap memory and an additional decoder for the PiP thing, it is the software they couldn't get right.. I suppose. Nevertheless, whoever thought PiP was going to be the next best thing in movie watching, deserves a big FAIL !!!

As soon as I heard HD-DVD was dead, I went out and bought a PS3. :nuts:

Pretty good as a media centre, plays blu-ray, plays DivX, MP3s, oh and apparently games as well. 8)

Agree

The advertising push for HD DVD killed it.

Great product but without tthe support and information to consumers, let alone competitive pricing, it just killed it.

Real shame, damn shame.

I agree; Including a Blu-ray player in the PS3 almost guaranteed its success. Likewise, not including an HD-DVD player in the 360 guaranteed its failure.

It's interesting to see how history has repeated itself, and how the PlayStation has helped launch two new media formats: 1st the DVD with the PS2, and now Blu-Ray with the PS3.

(Starchild said @ #1.1)
It's interesting to see how history has repeated itself, and how the PlayStation has helped launch two new media formats: 1st the DVD with the PS2, and now Blu-Ray with the PS3.

Do what? DVD came out in 1996, the PS2 came out in 2000. How did the PS2 help launch DVD (or SD-DVD)?

(OPaul said @ #1.2)

Do what? DVD came out in 1996, the PS2 came out in 2000. How did the PS2 help launch DVD (or SD-DVD)?

So what? The first mobile phone came out in the 70s. Was everyone walking around with mobiles in the 70s?

(AfroTrance said @ #1.3)

So what? The first mobile phone came out in the 70s. Was everyone walking around with mobiles in the 70s?

By 2000 over 40 million DVD players had been sold. So my question was, how did PS2 help a technology that was already booming?

(OPaul said @ #1.4)
By 2000 over 40 million DVD players had been sold. So my question was, how did PS2 help a technology that was already booming?

Well, actually, believe it or not, our first DVD player was a PS2. Dunno about the rest of the world though. -shrug-

(AfroTrance said @ #1.3)
So what? The first mobile phone came out in the 70s. Was everyone walking around with mobiles in the 70s?

Actually it was the late 80's and they were the BRICK "portable" phones (not what you'd call "mobile" these days.)

(OPaul said @ #1.2)

Do what? DVD came out in 1996, the PS2 came out in 2000. How did the PS2 help launch DVD (or SD-DVD)?

Actually, since DVD has 480p lines of resolution, it is considered ED so regular DVD is really ED-DVD.

I bought my first DVD player about 6 months before the PS2 came out. At the time everyone already knew they wanted a DVD player but they were still about $200. When the PS2 came out getting a "free" DVD player was just an added plus.

As for mobile phones, the first was not the "brick." There where backpack phones and before that car phones. As I recall the cell phone was invented sometime in the early 80's but was not the first "mobile" phone. For an extremely high cost you could get a car phone as early as the 50s.

Stephen Becker