Category: Engadget

Here at the Culturepin I provide a form of virtual safari through the bleeding edge landscape of the world and contemporary society. Suffice to say it is a treacherous terrain filled with uncertainty and conflict that requires a certain mad bravery to traverse. Even more treacherous is attempting to predict what will unfold around the next bend or come to pass just over the horizon.

So I avoid being a soothsayer, but rather, an echo of what is going down on the frontier. Which brings me to today’s subject – the latest format war in the VHS vs. Beta legacy, namely: Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD.

Here’s a very condensed version of what is one of the dirtiest and most agitated format wars in history:

Blu-Ray, a format developed by leading company NP Infotech and co-developed by Matsushita, Pioneer, Philips, Thomson, LG Electronics, Hitachi, Sharp, Samsung, and Sony (a collective that named itself the Blu-ray Disc Association as recently as 2004 – all this to say Blu-Ray does NOT=Sony per se), aspired to be the new high-definition playback and storage format for laser-based media.

On the other side of the proverbial laser-based media universe, was Toshiba with HD-DVD.

The shakedown was that Microsoft released an HD-DVD player for the Xbox360 and Sony went with Blu-Ray for its PS3 gaming platform.

Millions of emotionally charged discussion board posts later, Wal-Mart, that proverbial lynch pin of all things mass-marketable, announced it was phasing out HD-DVD and going exclusively with Blu-Ray. Just two nights ago – Valentine’s Day, 2008 I said that if Wal-Mart goes with Blu-Ray it’s all over.

February 15th, 2008, Engadget, a popular technology blog, thrust itself onto the global stage by boldly announcing the end of HD-DVD based on Wal-Mart’s announcement that it was going with Blu-Ray and citing reports from Reuters that Toshiba planned to stop production at its HD-DVD factories and thus the meme percolated throughout the format battleground.

None of this is absolute – however, for those who have been watching from the sidelines, wondering when they can start ordering their high-definition entertainment content from Amazon – you now know which way to hedge your bets.

Two things to ponder:

1) When a format wins, it is not necessarily because it is the superior format
2) When VHS killed Beta, there was no internet community

In the meantime, I am going to enjoy the copious bonus features on my Children of Men HD-DVD from my Xbox360 and wait for the prices of the remaining HD-DVD catalog to plummet so I can get another 350 or so titles that were released in the US for pocket change.

Disclaimer: I am not an advocate of either company or format – I have a Sony Bravia screen and I use Sony Vegas software, while I am inputting this entry on my Toshiba m300 Satellite laptop.