2008-02-19

HD wars are over, finally

Todays big news is that the "format war" between HD DVD and Blu-Ray disks are finally over. This is an all over "Good Thing(tm)" for the consumer (that's me!), but I'm still a bit annoyed over the ways this whole "war" was fought.
The first thing that annoys me, or rather saddens me, is that HD DVD didn't win. I'm no HD anorak, but I do know that whilst Blu-Ray is primarily Sony's contraption (and we will not forget Sony's ways of invading your computer with malware, or their boneheadedness with formats like Atrac, MiniDisc and UMD) the HD DVD format is governed by the DVD consortium. To me this is a good thing; I love standards (be it HTML, metric or whatever). Having one company (primarily) governing over a consumer standard isn't the ultimate solution, IMFO, anyway.
The second thing that gets to me is how Sony undermined the market by sticking the (at the time fairly premature) Blu-Ray into the Playstation 3 (and the PS3 was sold at a huge initial loss to get it to market). This move meant that PS3 players were counted as "HD players" in the wild. An extra bonus for Sony was that some stores bundled Blu-Ray movies onto the sales of PS3, which also counted as "sales". This all worked in the stats, and you know that there's "Lies, damn lies and statistics". This in turn led to headlines in the region of that "The consumer has voted" for Blu-Ray becuause the sales figures reported over 1 to 3 in BD favour. Well, I'll let you in on something; I'm a consumer and I didn't vote in the "HD format war". There's plenty of statistics on The Register to see how it shaped up, and it's easy to see that PS3 played a huge deal in promoting Blu-Ray. Without it there wouldn't have been a single HD player-type in anyone's living room (or PS3s in bedrooms?!). Microsoft, who's one of the HD DVD backers, could have bundled the HD DVD player with the XBox360, but they chose not to (probably because it was premature and it would have been to expensive), instead you can buy an HD DVD add-on player for the XBox360, and as long as the coolest games don't come on HD DVD for the XBox360 this isn't going to rival the PS3.
A bit of an unfair game in my opinion.
The last thing that makes me sad is that the HD DVD discs and players were always cheaper than the Blu-Ray ones, this has got a huge impact on me as I'm interested in HD, but I don't see it as some sort of magic revolution. I'd like HD, but I don't really care if one is 5% better than the other, because HD is 100% better than "standard-D" (numbers made up for illustrative purposes). As of today, you can pick up an HD DVD player for about £200, whereas the Blu-Ray is about £300 (numbers as I recall from arbitrary adverts), this is a big difference IMO, and the big question now is: "Are Blu-Ray players going to drop in price, or are they going to sit there because they've already got the "monopoly"?" - I'm not going to give stuff away for free, and I doubt Sony et al. will either (especially as they need to recoup the initial PS3 subsidiary). Cue high player prices and cartels surrounding the disks.
All in all, I think the consumer got the shorter straw on this one, and I'll be forced to buy a format that I, as a consumer, don't really support.
HD DVD, you never were, but I already miss you. Vaya con Dios. Rant over, return to your positions.

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