CNET is reporting that Toshiba has lowered their sales target for HD DVD players, not projecting a total of 1 million Toshiba HD DVD decks in North America by the end of calendar 2007. That’s a 44% reduction from their previous projection of 1.8 million units.
That makes for an interesting contrast with the TWICE article, which is based on information released by the North American HD DVD Promotional Group. No surprise, they’ve put a positive spin on things. They tout the fact that HD DVD holds a lead with 60% of all dedicated high-definition set-top players sold. Of course, HD DVD STBs were on the market for several months before BD STBs shipped, and have always had a price advantage – yet BD has been reducing HD DVD’s lead steadily. They also downplay the PS3, which is the single most common next-gen disc player in homes today, as each PS3 is also a Blu-ray player. They claim that PS3 players have not purchased BD titles as much as Sony expected – which may be true, but there was a major increase in BD movie purchases following the release of the PS3, which has continued to lift BD sales. They report that 150,000 dedicated HD DVD players have been purchased to date.
Now, contrast that with the Bloomberg.com article. Sony is projecting that US Blu-ray player sales my increase six-fold in 2007, compared to 2006 – as many as 600,000 BD players, compared to 100,000 in 2006. BD has the overwhelming support of the movie studios. Of the eight majors, seven support Blu-ray – five of those exclusively. Universal is the sole HD DVD exclusive studio, Warner and Paramount support both. Consumers are far more likely to find the titles they want on BD than on HD DVD, and Sony expects that to continue to drive sales.
I’ve been watching this format war since before it started, when there were a myriad of competing ‘next generation’ disc proposals. Personally, I think Blu-ray is clearly superior and the few advantages that HD DVD had are being eroded over time. The main advantage to HD DVD was lower manufacturing costs, but as BD production matures, and volumes increase, that advantage is being whittled away. In every other regard, BD is equivalent or superior to HD DVD. I’m a little upset with Toshiba, and their primary partners – NEC and Sanyo – for triggering this war. When the overwhelming majority of the consumer electronics and content industries aligned behind BD, they had a chance to combine the formats and avoid a war – as was done with DVD – but they decided to fight it out in the market instead. No one wins in a format war, it slows adoption of the new technology and creates confusion. I expect BD will be the dominant format in the long run, but the worst-case would be for HD DVD to linger on indefinitely, keeping the rift in the market open. To more people who buy BD and the fewer who buy HD DVD, the faster it will be over.