Is Toshiba rebooting the format war?

In the aftermath of Blu-ray’s victory over HD DVD, Toshiba doesn’t seem to be taking things lying down. It's hatching a plan for optical storage.

Toshiba HD DVD

Back in January, when Warner Bros made its pivotal announcement that it was exclusively backing Sony's Blu-ray format over HD DVD, it effectively brought to an end the high-definition format war, and not before time.

For no matter which camp you happened to support, the one clear message that was coming through from muted take-up of both - and the falling sales of DVDs - was that confusion was reigning, and a winner needed to be crowned.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The story goes that right up until the last minute, it was unclear as to which format Warner Bros would choose to exclusively back, but courtesy of some apparently frantic negotiations on the eve of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the eventual scene of its announcement, it chose its to go for Blu-ray. In the weeks that followed, many companies be they smaller film distributors, retailers or rental services made a similar call, and the writing was very quickly on the wall for HD DVD.

Toshiba waited until February, when the message was coming through loud and clear in spite of a raft of hardware price cuts, and confirmed that it was abandoning its HD DVD format. Blu-ray was the clear winner, and while it's taken some time since then to get some proper momentum behind the format, it's in shape now to have a real crack at the lucrative back end of the year market.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

What happened next

Toshiba, as you'd expect, is hurting. Profits have been severely hit by the investment in HD DVD, and as a major player in home entertainment electronics, you would suspect that it would be wise to recoup some of its sales by plunging head-first into the Blu-ray market. But apparently, it's not to be. In fact, more than that, rumours persist that Toshiba still has the potential to muddy the waters a little.

The first signs of this emerged when it became clear that Toshiba had no plans to support Blu-ray, at least not in the near future. In a sense, this is understandable: having waged an increasingly unpleasant and bruising war against Sony for supremacy in the world of high definition, the thought of siding with the format that emerged victorious must be hard to stomach for some members of the Toshiba management team. And a window where it didn't opt for Blu-ray support was logical, if not at least from a PR perspective.

Advertisement - Article continues below

However, if it's not careful it could be perceived that Toshiba is putting ego before business sense. Analysts expect the high definition sector to grow with some momentum in the year or two ahead although it's still debatable if, long term, it will have anywhere near the market penetration of DVD, in the movie space at least and Toshiba would be well primed to snare itself some of the spoils of that.

Still, the firm remains adamant about not supporting Blu-ray, most recently in omitting it from the specs of its latest round of laptops. But it still, it appears, has a few ideas up its sleeves.

Rumours and whispers

The first sign of this was when one or two online discussion groups started speculating that the HD DVD format could be released into the public domain. There was no obvious basis in fact for this, but the ramifications nonetheless were intriguing. After all, this could be quite a spoiler tactic against Blu-ray, and would mean that without the need for manufacturers to pay any kind of licensing fee HD DVD support could easily be added to home entertainment equipment with little added cost.

Advertisement - Article continues below

For several reasons, however, it's not going to happen. Firstly, the idea was more idle chatter than anything even remotely formal. Secondly, the chances of movie studios reversing their decision to support the format are remote at best: the confusion in the marketplace has only just been cleared up, and more is not required. And finally, the complexity of the technology itself means that Toshiba is unlikely to want to give it away, not least because of its crossovers with the DVD format.

Featured Resources

Top 5 challenges of migrating applications to the cloud

Explore how VMware Cloud on AWS helps to address common cloud migration challenges

Download now

3 reasons why now is the time to rethink your network

Changing requirements call for new solutions

Download now

All-flash buyer’s guide

Tips for evaluating Solid-State Arrays

Download now

Enabling enterprise machine and deep learning with intelligent storage

The power of AI can only be realised through efficient and performant delivery of data

Download now

Most Popular


Zoom kills Facebook integration after data transfer backlash

30 Mar 2020
data breaches

Marriott data breach exposes personal data of 5.2 million guests

31 Mar 2020
cyber crime

FBI warns of ‘Zoom-bombing’ hackers amid coronavirus usage spike

31 Mar 2020
Server & storage

HPE warns of 'critical' bug that destroys SSDs after 40,000 hours

26 Mar 2020