Toshiba’s price cuts seem to have scored an own-goal on Onkyo, which could be considered the third case of friendly-fire taking out an HD DVD player vendor. Early on Thomson/RCA sold a re-badged Toshiba player, but they dropped HD DVD to focus on DVD when they couldn’t compete with Toshiba’s pricing. Since Toshiba subsidized their players, the RCA player was the same thing – with a higher price. Then Venturer came to market with that was supposed to be an inexpensive HD DVD player. But by the time they hit store shelves Toshiba had slashed prices again, leaving an unknown brand name, Venturer, to compete with a well-known brand, Toshiba. Venturer players were left gathering dust on the shelves. They’re apparently still out there, so perhaps it is unfair to call them out just yet, but it looks like they’ve pretty much walked away from HD DVD as they couldn’t compete with Toshiba – before the latest price cuts.
And now Onkyo, a fairly respected brand, is ‘suspending’ their support for HD DVD. Onkyo is a high-end brand, and they added an HD DVD player to their Integra product line last year. The Onkyo DV-HD805 is basically a re-badged Toshiba HD-XE1, which seems to have run into the same troubles as RCA – selling the same goods at a higher price. Onkyo is suspending sales in the UK, telling Home Cinema Choice:
[G]iven the current, multiple uncertainties surrounding the Blu-ray vs HD DVD issue Onkyo has decided against bringing any further DV-HD805s to the UK
Furthermore, it sounds like Onkyo may be ‘suspending’ their HD DVD support permanently, in light of Toshiba’s aggressive price cuts:
Onkyo brings its talents to bear where it thinks it can add value to a given product category. If a category becomes commoditised â€“ as this sector shows signs of becoming â€“ thereâ€™s less reason to commit huge resources to it when they may be better employed elsewhere.
Though they may yet release a new device, and if they do I’d expect it to be Blu-ray or perhaps a combination player, in light of the massive shift in the market to Blu-ray. Onkyo says that they will:
unveil a new HD source later this year, but cannot confirm at this stage whether it will be a HD DVD, Blu-ray or combi device.
Considering Toshiba’s deep price cuts, and Onkyo’s statement about adding value and commoditization, I can’t see them releasing another HD DVD player. Given the diversity in the Blu-ray market I could easily see them releasing a high-end Blu-ray player, say Profile 2.0/BD-Live, and perhaps a combi-player as LG and Samsung have done. Vendors just cannot make money selling HD DVD players with Toshiba’s massive subsidies to their own players. Toshiba may be fighting to buy market share with artificially cheap players, but they’re also driving away any other vendors who might support the format. When vendors can make money selling Blu-ray players, but not HD DVD. Which format are they going to support?