The Wall Street Journal talked to Toshiba’s CEO, Atsutoshi Nishida, focusing mainly on the HD DVD decision. While I still blame Toshiba for starting the format war in the first place (I really should get around to writing up my synopsis of the war), I have to give Nishida credit for making the decision to end the war. I have to say he comes across fairly well in the interview, though the gloves definitely stayed on – the questions were easy lobs, not exactly hard hitting.
WSJ: When did you first start thinking about withdrawing from the HD DVD business?
Mr. Nishida: When Warner [Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros.] announced its support for Blu-ray on the 4th of January. We took a little time before reaching a final decision, so we could give people a chance to voice their opinions and we could consider all the ramifications and consequences of pulling out, such as how it would affect consumers and us.
WSJ: Most industry observers had expected the format war to continue for a while longer. Why did you decide to pull out so quickly?
Mr. Nishida: I didn’t think we stood a chance after Warner left us because it meant HD DVD would have just 20% to 30% of software market share. One has to take calculated risks in business, but it’s also important to switch gears immediately if you think your decision was wrong. We were doing this to win, and if we weren’t going to win then we had to pull out, especially since consumers were already asking for a single standard.
Sounds like he approached it logically and rationally, and didn’t allow corporate pride to keep Toshiba in the fight. He recognized that the war was lost, and if Toshiba couldn’t get a win then it was time to concede and cut their losses. He deserves credit for making the decision to end things quickly. And yes, January 4th (Warner’s announcement) to February 19th (Toshiba’s announcement) is very quick for a major corporate direction change. Toshiba had to coordinate with all of their partners as well.
Nishida reiterates that Toshiba plans to focus on DVD, at least for the time being. It sounds like they’ll be sitting out the Blu-ray market, though personally I can’t see them abstaining forever. They may wait until the market grows a bit to try to carve out a bit for themselves. For now they plan to focus on upconverting DVD players and PCs. They’ll also be putting more resources behind video downloads now that HD DVD is dead.