April 18, 2006 4:00 AM PDT

HD DVD debut ups ante in high-stakes game

A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.
With Tuesday's launch of two HD DVD players from Toshiba, the public gets its chance to decide whether that format or its rival, Blu-ray, is the rightful heir to the DVD.

In the public relations battle between the warring technologies, HD DVD scored a victory by getting to market first. Toshiba's HD-A1 ($500) and higher-end HD-XA1 ($800) players hit store shelves this week, two months before the first Blu-ray player is scheduled to go on sale.

This is a high-stakes game, and not just for the movie studios, electronics manufacturers or software companies with a piece of the $24 billion home video market. Consumers could lose big by betting on the wrong technology.

As the VHS-Betamax battle showed three decades ago, such confrontations are usually a winner-take-all affair. In that instance, VHS triumphed and studios quickly abandoned the Betamax format. Betamax owners were left with no films to watch and thousands of dollars invested in worthless video equipment.

At this early stage, some analysts believe that casual movie fans should wait for a winner to emerge. Technologies are always fraught with glitches and setbacks and typically are more expensive when they're launched than after they've been on the market for a while. At a time when a low-end DVD player costs $50, the price for an HD DVD machine starts at $500. A top-end Blu-ray player may run as much as $1,800.

Listen up

CNET News.com's Greg Sandoval makes sense of the tech dilemmas facing those thinking about swapping their old DVD players.

Download mp3 (1.4MB)

"These aren't products for cost-conscious consumers yet," said IDC analyst Josh Martin.

For TV aficionados who like owning the top tube on the block, there are a few things to consider before buying. (Click here for CNET.com's comments on HD players and read a CNET.com review of the Toshiba machine.)

Neither HD DVD nor Blu-ray can offer movie titles from all seven of the top movie studios. That means buyers of one disc player may be prevented from watching a movie from a studio that doesn't support the format.

Seven studios currently back Blu-ray, while three support HD DVD, and two of those also support Blu-ray. Only Universal Studios supports HD DVD exclusively.

"Content, content, content"
For Andy Parsons, chairman of the Blu-ray Disc Promotion Committee in the U.S., the deciding factor for consumers should be "content, content, content," Parsons said.

"It's as important as location is when buying a house," Parsons said. "Remember, you're not buying this equipment because it looks good with your furniture. You're buying it because you want to watch movies. We have a fairly significant leg up because we've brought to market a wider array of (movie studios)."

Elsewhere on CNET
Learn about it
See a review of the Toshiba HD-A1 at CNET.com.

Learn about it
See a review of the Toshiba HD-XA1 at CNET.com.

Read more
Read more about HD DVD and Blu-ray at CNET.com.

The HD DVD camp has promised that nearly 200 movie titles will be available on that format by the end of the year.

Coinciding with the launch of Toshiba's new disc players, Warner Bros. Entertainment is releasing three film titles on the HD DVD format: "Million Dollar Baby," "The Last Samurai" and "Phantom of the Opera."

Warner Bros. is also set to release titles for Blu-ray players when the first one (Samsung's BD-P1000) goes on sale in June, said Stephen Nickerson, Warner Home Video's senior vice president of market management.

When it comes to price, HD DVD wins out at least in the early stages. Initial cost estimates for building blue-laser disc players is more than $400, according to In-Stat. The research firm predicted that the costs should fall considerably by 2010.

While Toshiba's players range from $500 to $800, the least expensive Blu-ray machine is $999. Blu-ray, however, will be available on a bigger selection of players.


Correction: This story incorrectly reported on the Blu-ray-equipped computer that Fujitsu plans to launch in June. It is a desktop PC. The story also mislabeled a Toshiba device; it is the Qosmio G30.

See more CNET content tagged:
HD-DVD, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., Sony Betamax, Blu-ray, Toshiba


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Add your comment
This article has a few mistakes
"Toshiba is scheduled to release the first HD DVD notebook: the Vaio G30"

And the whole seven studios thing...

Anyway, I dont understand how consumers are expected to pay two to three times the amount for bluray players when they havent proven that the tech is that much better. And what about manufacturers? I once read that pressing hd dvds were a simple upgrade in tech in the factories - blu ray really doesnt make that much sense (if we had to have "next gen" media).
Posted by emehrkay (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Vaio reference fixed
You're right - the reference to the Toshiba product should say Qosmio, not Vaio.
Posted by Jon Skillings (249 comments )
Link Flag
I agree
As a consumer I'm not going to pay more than $250 for a new player. I think a lot of people would agree with me, to be honest. If blu-ray can drop to $250 around the same time that HD DVD does, it might have a chance. If it's still at $500 when HD DVD players hit $250, they're going to lose the consumer market. And the studios are going to follow the money.

I'll be buying a PS3 at or near launch, but I don't think think PS3 can save blu-ray in terms of the movie market. It may well guarantee it a place in the computer market (data backups, etc.) but I agree with the previous comment that people aren't going to pay 2X the price for the player so they can have more content. Most of the movies I buy, I watch the deleted scenes and that's it. All the other content is superfluous.

If Sony wants to win this war, they're going to have to drop the price of the players to be reasonably close to the HD DVD players reasonably quickly. (The consumer get's to define "reasonably.")

My 2 cents...

Posted by drfrost (467 comments )
Link Flag
Do I even need to comment?
Clearly it's 'screw the consumer' time. Just say no. Force the industry to work out their squabbles internally rather than using your wallet to settle their disputes. Unless of course you've got money to burn and it doesn't matter.

The quotes that say it all:

Consumers could lose big by betting on the wrong technology.

That means buyers of one disc player may be prevented from watching a movie from a studio that doesn't support the format.

While Toshiba's players range from $500 to $800, the least expensive Blu-ray machine is $999.
&films on HD DVD and Blu-ray is $34.99 for newer titles and $28.99 for catalog films.

"There are certain advantages with the new formats, including additional interactive features," said IDC's Martin. "They've got games and higher-quality recordings, but it's not DVD to VHS."
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No reason for high prices
The only reason that I find that the Bue-Ray is more costly is the fact that it can hold 25GB instead of 15GB, but still, why is it 2 to 3 times the price, for only 10GB more. That is not economical and just, well not right. The only other reason i can see paying more for the Bue-ray is the fact that they have 7 studios on their side, meaning, many more movies to come out for the bue-ray. But it is all up to the consumers to decide what they want. Also, wasnt it Sony that lost the last Major formats war with the Betamax?... I think I see a trend here
Posted by CaptDave86 (30 comments )
Reply Link Flag
BluRay is expensive to manufacture
HD-DVD uses the same technology that is used to make DVD's, so there is not much reason for a price increase.

However, Blu-Ray is an brand new, expensive and painful manufacuring process that many manufacturing partners have publically complained about. The can produce 3x the amount of HD-DVD at the same cost and time. It has been predicted that Blu-Ray prices will never go down because there is little that can be improved in the creation process or components.
Posted by umbrae (1073 comments )
Link Flag
For the umpteenth time in a century (say since 1950, anyways),
we will be forced to embrace another format so that Hollywood
can get rich from selling the same movies again.

I still have stacks of tapes, and have not rebought those on DVD.
I have stacks of LaserDiscs, and have not rebought those on

Most of my family and friends can't tell from Mac to Windows,
PS2 to GameCube, Standard from HDTV, stereo from mono.

Some still don't have DVD.

Honestly, I hope both formats fail, then combine in a 2.0 format
like recordable DVDs did, then make a player play everything
from audio CDs pressed in 1984 in Japan to VCDs to DVDs with
or without RCE presents to playing all recordable DVD formats to
DVD-RAM (without casing) to BR and HD DVD formats. That's
the what to go. I don't want ten different players to watch
movies, I want maybe one or two.
Posted by fakespam (239 comments )
Reply Link Flag
PCs anyone?
A PC is versatile enough to accommodate a huge variety of formats, thanks to software. However, usability and actual A/V quality suck compared to dedicated home theater components. It would be great to see a PC with high quality A/V electronics integrated that isn't neutered with DRM limitations (i.e., I should be able to make a full-quality copy of a movie from DVD/HD-DVD/Blu-Ray to my entertainment PC).

Posted by speleofool (60 comments )
Link Flag
PS3 will decide this war
The winner is going to end up being the Blu Ray format. Sony is already using it in the upcoming PS3 consoles, which should help drive down the costs of producing the players. At this point, I don't think there is any reason to buy into any new format for movies. Exectly what features are they going to give you that justifies that kind of price increase? Watching the movie at different angles? Big deal. More production footage, bloopers? Big deal. Hopefully, they will squeeze in larger movie previews!!
Posted by P_S_J (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The PS3 will have an effect but only 5% of the market will be persuaded by that... PS3 is going to be expensive so most of the little kids that back it wont even be able to buy one. But for the other 95% of the movie market most will want the one that is less expensive, the movie makers will bring the movies to which ever HD player win's. They could care less which one wins they just want your money.
Posted by mrpeabody3119 (101 comments )
Link Flag
I'm Not So Sure About That
Game consoles typically provide a horrible user experience for movie watching. With Sony having to fight to keep the price of the PS3 competitive with other gaming consoles, I doubt many dollars were devoted to making the PS3 a good movie viewing experience. Therefore, I think most folks who do opt for a PS3, will also decide they need a separate high def video player (if they decide they need one at all!).

mark d.
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Link Flag
No reason to buy either...
You gain nothing by choosing either format. Both formats are ONLY to change the DRM of DVDs. In fact, movie studio plan on yanking DVD's off the market completely by 2008 at the latest. I say don't buy either so they fail.

They only thing you might gain is special editions on 1 disc rather than 2-3. However, the picture will not look any better and you will not be able to back them up for probably a good while.

Sony is only using this format to sell (or justify the price of) PS3's and their new 1080p TVs, and - of course - stop any fair use of their content.
Posted by umbrae (1073 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Did you just make that up?
"In fact, movie studio plan on yanking DVD's off the market completely by 2008 at the latest"

First off where did you hear this? besides some idiot on a forum making it up. Don't spread rumors.

"However, the picture will not look any better and you will not be able to back them up for probably a good while."

Actually you can definitely notice the difference in the picture. as for "backing up" AKA downloading them for free, lol. Your right it will be a few months before they can figure that out..
Posted by mrpeabody3119 (101 comments )
Link Flag
It does look better...
While you make some good points, the video quality is definitely better. Unfortunately, you need an expensive player and an expensive TV to see it, but I've seen them and there is definitely a discernable quality difference. Is it enough to justify the costs? That depends very much on how picky you are.

The DRM does worry me, though. And Sony has proved many times (the rootkits come to mind) that what they consider "fair use" and what the general consumer considers "fair use" is very different. And the lengths at which they will go to protect their content definitely exceeds what the consumer finds acceptable.

The whole part of the standard that requires a monitor with a special interface just infuriates me. The hackers are going to break the code and pirate the movie. It's going to happen. In fact, according to some hackers it already has. In all honesty, I think this is more about forcing hardware upgrades than stopping piracy.
Posted by drfrost (467 comments )
Link Flag
Spintronics and Atomic Holographic Storage
I think Blu-Ray and HD-DVD just bandaids.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.colossalstorage.net" target="_newWindow">http://www.colossalstorage.net</a>
Posted by grey_eminence (153 comments )
Reply Link Flag
When pies fly, you have...

An idea is not a product.

A patent is not a product.

An alleged scientific discovery is not a product.

The tech industry highways are littered from one end to the other with Next Big Thing roadkill.

God, it gets tiresome!!!
Posted by baisa (126 comments )
Link Flag
Boycott Blu-Ray! Hologram Disk are coming!
Thank you, "grey_eminence", thank you. I have been SHOUTING about Hologram Disks on every techie blog site for the last 6 months. People DO NOT want to hear about it. They just want to argue about Blu-Ray, just to win the conversation... but NOT the war. Believe me, this isn't a war that you want to lose!

Think about this situation logically? This is just a half-baked Sony invention, backed by Hollywood who is DESPERATELY trying to hold on to an out-dated business plan, and hold back technology. The worse part of this is, they are trying to use the American public (and our money) as "guinea-pigs" for their little revenge plot against the video and music, pirates and hackers. That's their problem, not ours. We shouldn't have to get sucker into another format war, just because MPAA wants to act like children.

Hologram Disks Technology is going to be the next BIG thing. Blu-Ray in comparison, is just DVD 1.5 or worst yet -- beta-max. (My family had a front row seat for that show) Just remember Sony's track record of proprietary formats has NOT been a good one.

1 Blu-Ray disk is 50 Gigabytes = Which is Cool!
1 Holographic disks is 10 Terabytes = Which is REALLY F__king Cool!

Please, do you want the big "Season 1: Box Set"? Or do you want the "Every Season Set" of the whole damn show, plus 8 episodes of the crappy spin-off show. All 10 Season of the next show that actor starred in after he became famous. The 2 movies he starred in while taking a break from television. The 2 mini-series he starred in on lifetime-tv as the sensitive, husband cheating, baby stealing, serial killer. Along with the soundtracks, the music videos and flashbacks of him as "The Cute Guy" on soap opera X. All this on a disk the size of a credit card, you do the math?
Posted by c.Lake (42 comments )
Link Flag
Sony's making the Same Old Mistake $$$$
It's the PRICE stupid.
Sony didn't get it back in betamax versus VHS.
And they still don't get it now.
Consumers will buy the cheapest out there. Than the studios have to go cater to them or lose sales.

Besides, I wouldn't trust Sony equipment with their rootkits anyway.
Posted by kamwmail-cnet1 (292 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I hope you are right...
Very very much... I see Sony losing again like they did with BetaMax and UMD, but they toss out a ton of advertising and the brand for Blu-Ray is kinda cool. I just hope everyone remembers Sony screwing them and stays away again.

However, I would much rather just stick with DVDs since the new technology offers so little.
Posted by umbrae (1073 comments )
Link Flag
Maybe A Different Mistake
"It's the PRICE stupid."

Actually, maybe it's not the price at all. Which has the better price, SACD or DVD-Audio? Answer: Who cares! Neither offers a compelling reason to upgrade when compared to CDs!

There is more and more anecdotal evidence that below 42" TV size, high def video shows little discernible improvement over standard definition DVD ***at typical home viewing distances***. A 42" widescreen TV is quite large--suitable as the main TV for the vast majority of homes. Between that, and the high cost for even larger models, either high def video format may have a limited market. Personally, I'm waiting this one out.

mark d.
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Link Flag
So is it blurry?
The story left out the answer to one of the most important questions about HD DVD players: If you play movies on analog HD DVD monitors, does the video look fuzzy? Now that CNET has a real HD DVD player with released HD DVD movies, this question can finaly be answered by simply hooking up the unit and hitting the play button.

Background: HD DVD and Blue Ray movies have the option of requiring a HDCP compatible DVI or HDMI digital connection to a monitor in order to play at full resolution. This information is supposed to be clearly visible on the movie's packaging (was it?) If such a movie is played on a HD DVD monitor with analog connections, its resolution is supposed to be greatly reduced to little more than standard DVD resolution. To the consumer, the video will appear to be fuzzy. Earlier news reports stated that it had not been decided which movies would require HDCP.
Posted by grangerfx (41 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Consumer won't vote w/ their dollar just to look at pimples!
We don't need these "new" hi-def, overpriced, DRM loaded players that also take away our fair use. Why would I want a overpriced hi-def player just so I can see pimples on movie casts?
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Are you willing to stop buying movies altogether?
If they phase out DVD's by the end of 2008, unless the consumer market as a whole stops buying the new media and forces them to release new content in the old media, you'll have to comply or quit buying movies.

And I believe congress has passed a law requiring broadcasts to go HD by Feb, 2009? (Who are they working for anyway?) So, at the very least, you're going to have to get an HD tuner by that time.

Personally I'm disgusted by the whole mess. It's obvious that congress is working for the lobbiest in cases like this. I don't want a bunch of new DRM restrictions (and I've never pirated a movie so that's certainly not my motivation). And I certainly don't want to spend $2000+ to update my TV, DVD player, etc. BUT, unfortunately, I like watching movies.
Posted by drfrost (467 comments )
Link Flag
Both are duds in progress....
HD-DVD and Blu-Ray are both dead end technology roads. We
don't need a formal war, but that's what we are getting. Everyone
should just keep their hands in the pockets and stand on the
sidelines while the two formats annihilate each other. When the
smoke clears, someone will have a much simpler solution, like
conventional DVD with MPRG-4 compression.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Amen and a good article
You are on the money!

So everyone remember history here is a good article...

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/B/htmlB/betamaxcase/betamaxcase.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/B/htmlB/betamaxcase/betamaxcase.htm</a>
Posted by umbrae (1073 comments )
Link Flag
Just Saw It At Bestbuy
Bestbuy had it on display at the end of an isle, hooked up to a Westinghouse 37" Lcd 1080P flat panel. I hate to say it, but the HD from my Cox cable box looks better. Bestbuy also had the sound coming out of the mini speakers internal to the display. If I was Toshiba, I would have demanded, that if you are going to sell my stuff, you showcase it properly. That would mean displaying this player's HD content on the biggest and best display that you have in the store, Also, it would have been really nice to hear the new lossless sound tracks on something other than two, 2 inch Westinghouse speakers. Good job Bestbuy.
Posted by als (154 comments )
Reply Link Flag
VHS video quality is better than DVD
VHS is not compressed. I've seen this demonstrated in a lab. It's not that DVD offered vastly superior video quality, but that VHS quality can degrade over time resulting in notably WORSE quality.

In any case, had to nitpick on video quality as the primary reson for DVD's success. It was really all about:
* durability
* better audio, including surround
* random access; don't have to rewind DVD

In addition, there were plenty more compelling new features, including:
* alternate languages &#38; subtitles available
* extra features
* DVD slim case 1/2 the size of VHS
* parental controls

Posted by speleofool (60 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sorry, but quality is the issue...
.... and VHS doesn't cut it any way. On a very good day, pre-
recorded VHS does 320 x 240 pixel resolution, Pre-recorded
SVHS (try to find one) maybe gets 400 x 300 pixel resolution.
And, each play reduces resolution. Each copy means a major loss
in resolution. Self recorded VHS rarely gets better than 240 x
240 resolution (pixels are no longer square)

DVD gives 720 x 480 resolution out of the box. Copying the
disk, and multiple plays. do not affect the resolution.

The rest of the point seems to make sense.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
That's idiotic. It's like saying 8track is better than CD
The first time I watched a DVD on my computer I couldn't believe how clear it was. I've watched VHS tapes through my computer's TV card. VHS looks like crap.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Link Flag
You don't know what you are talking about - you must be joking.
DVD = 480 lines of resolution. VHS = 256 lines of resolution. HDDVD/Blue Ray = 1080

VHS - read from analog = horrible quality even to a blind person.

There is no such thing as "uncompressed VHS". Uncompressed standard definition video is 270mbps and that doesn't fit on any consumer media including HD DVD or Blue Ray.
Posted by J. Blow (193 comments )
Link Flag
are you on drugs or what? now your advocating VHS? fine, then
lets all but laserdiscs and VCDs, since I don't have to rewind the
movie and the majority of the media doesn't degrade till after
ten years or so.
Posted by fakespam (239 comments )
Link Flag
The thing is HUGE!
My local Best Buy had sold out of the A1 models but they had an XA1 which had been received earlier for demonstration purposes. Unfortunately it had stopped working a few days ago. My guess is that it needs a reset and firmware upgrade but I was not going to attempt to explain this to the Best Buy employees.

Beside the giant 80's flash back remote control the thing I noticed the most was the size of the XA1 itself. It is humongous! It is not only tall and wide, it is deep too. It is as big as your granddad's laser disk player. If anyone knows where I can see some explicit photos of the guts of one of these babys, please post it as a reply to this message.
Posted by grangerfx (41 comments )
Reply Link Flag
kicking and screaming
with this format, drag me kicking and screaming to it.

i like DVDs just fine thank you.

and even then, if the content is rereleases of stuff i already own
or new movies, i doubt i'll buy it. i don't really enjoy new movie
offerings. too many horror, too many white-trash slapstick, or
too many Matrix and/or Tarentino inspired action movies.

pull my hair, hollywood, kick me in the nutz, stab me in the
stomach, and maybe i'll consider.

now, as far a data storage is concerned, sign me up. I need 15
GB discs!
Posted by fakespam (239 comments )
Link Flag
"additional interactive features" = "studio control"
Has anyone noticed that current DVDs force you to watch all of the previews and disclaimers and that fast-forward doesn't work? I can only assume it will be worse with both HD formats.
The DRM is one thing, but the control that the players/studios want over how we view the content is part of the feature set coming. For me, I like clicking Play and actually seeing a movie. Even waiting for the DVD Menu is a frustration. Why must it come up when 99% of the time, everyone just wants to see the movie.
Posted by rob_kellington (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Check Out GoVideo Products
The functions of your remote are set by the DVD played, consequently by the studios. However, some players, including those by GoVideo, ignore those initial commands. That means that your remote is fully functional ATT and you can skip the ad's. Some players even have an "autoplay" feature that automatically does the skipping for you.

mark d.
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Link Flag
No Standard = No Sale
Wake me when the Format War is over. :-)
Posted by john55440 (1020 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Message has been deleted.
Posted by fakespam (239 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hard-Core Mac User rules . . .
Hard-Core Mac Users (they who see no Windows at all) have a
rule about hardware: never buy the 1st and 2nd generations/

These aren't the people who buy Intel Macs or bought the iMacs
of the last year, these are folks who XPostFacto Tiger onto old-
ass PowerPCs.

That's they're saying. Makes sense this time around. I'll wait.
Posted by fakespam (239 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Message has been deleted.
Posted by fakespam (239 comments )
Reply Link Flag
LaserDisc and VCD
Both LaserDisc and VCD had different formats upon their

LD was know as DiscoVision in the '70s (go figure) and
LaserVision Video Disc. As time wore on, Pioneer and MCA
agreed to combine formats on players and just call LaserDisc,
with the LaserVision format be de facto, but the DiscoVision
format still able to play. They were hoping it would boost sales
of the LD format in USA, but ended up taking off in Japan
instead, with cult following here.

VCD also had a three formats in 1990. The latter two won out.
Philips first used the CD-i format as the VCD format, but those
didn't sell well, so they dropped it and supported regular VCDs
for a year or two in USA, while VCD took off in Asia. VCD 2.x was
created later (Super VCD) and was able to go about the hour
limit by a few more minutes. Soon, LG, Sony, Pioneer, Philips and
others were offering (by 1995) VCD players than could play both

Toshiba and Sony should take a cue from their past optical
history, not so much Beta vs. VHS.
Posted by fakespam (239 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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