Although rumors have been swirling lately that Kmart has agreed to exclusively support the HD DVD format, they appear to be false.
When reached for comment, K-mart sent a rather defensive-sounding statement attributed to Jonathan Magasanik, vice president of home electronics for Sears Holdings, Kmart's parent company: "There have been numerous statements in the media (Wednesday), attributed to Toshiba, indicating exclusive support for the HD-DVD format in Kmart stores. These statements are false. Kmart intends to support both the HD-DVD and Blu-ray platforms, and has no plans to support either platform exclusively."
Kmart representatives didn't elaborate on what that means, but a quick perusal of the Kmart.com site shows that it offers standalone HD DVD players, but not standalone Blu-ray players. It does, however, sell the Sony PlayStation 3, which has an embedded Blu-ray player.
The same sort of confusion developed a few months back when Target stores began carrying Blu-ray endcaps, or stations at the end of each aisle promoting Blu-ray Disc titles. Media reports emerged then that Target was going Blu-ray-only, but it turned out Target.com still sells HD DVD players and the HD DVD attachable drive for the Microsoft Xbox 360.
Claims of exclusivity aside, the so-called HD DVD versus Blu-ray format war has quickly metamorphosed into a price war. In anticipation of the upcoming holiday shopping season, several retailers are now selling an HD DVD player for $200, and on Thursday Wal-Mart and Best Buy began offering a Toshiba HD DVD player for $99.
A riposte from Blu-ray is expected. Sony, the biggest muscle behind the Blu-ray format, has already announced it will drop the PS3 price from $499 to $399. And now it looks like Sony's own standalone Blu-ray players will be close behind. Sony Electronics President Stan Glasgow said Thursday evening that $399 Blu-ray players this holiday are not out of the question.
So, both formats will likely be available anywhere you want to shop this holiday. But questions remain whether $100 or $200 is still too high for a machine that only plays certain movies. After all, as long as studios are choosing sides of the format war, consumers are still likely to hold out until the titles they want to see are available regardless of the format.