The expected next-generation DVD format war isn't quite the deadlock many expected.
Target's announcement Thursday that it would sell a Sony Blu-ray player in its stores alongside Blu-ray discs in a special feature promotion is important because the second-largest retailer in the U.S. doesn't sell HD DVD players in its stores, outside of the external HD DVD drive made for Microsoft's Xbox 360. It does sell a Toshiba HD DVD player on its Web site, however.
When the battle between the competing optical disc formats--HD DVD and Blu-ray--began brewing last year, analysts predicted protracted trench warfare, many refusing to choose sides. But just six months after the first Blu-ray players went on sale, the numbers show that the fight may be nearing its conclusion.
Blu-ray got way out ahead of HD DVD by virtue of Sony's PlayStation 3 console, which came preloaded with a Blu-ray player. Of the 1.5 million Blu-ray players sold in the U.S., 1.4 million are PS3s, according to the Blu-ray Disc Association. HD DVD had an advantage in that its players were less expensive than Blu-ray--at first. Though HD DVD prices have come down, Blu-ray's have as well.
Toshiba, one of the staunchest supporters of HD DVD, said last month that initial forecasts of sales of discs and external HD DVD drives was probably a bit ambitious. The Japanese electronics maker said it anticipates selling 1 million players and recorders in North America this year, down 44 percent from the earlier estimate of 1.8 million. The Digital Entertainment Group reports that HD DVD has sold 300,000 HD DVD players, and half of that figure is the external drive that pairs with Microsoft's Xbox 360.
Things looked bad for HD DVD last month when Blockbuster said the only high-definition DVDs it would rent in its stores would be Blu-ray. HD DVD will be available, however, on its Web site, Blockbuster.com.
In yet another sign that two competing formats may be a thing of the past, earlier this month Warner Bros., a studio supporting both formats, announced that its Total HD disc--HD DVD on one side, Blu-ray on the other--would likely be delayed until early 2008. Though Warner Bros. says the timing isn't right and the dual-format disc will still be a viable business idea six months from now, it's looking more like it won't even be necessary.
Click on the chart above for a breakdown of the numbers.
Correction: The initial version of this blog incorrectly cited the Digital Entertainment Group on the number of Blu-ray players sold. The number is from the Blu-ray Disc Association.