Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Betamax is to HD-DVD as VHS is to...

The war is over, the victor is clear, the battlefield is littered with the titanium shells of dead machines.

So long HD-DVD, helloooo Blu-Ray.

Warner Bros. Studios, the largest video distributor, put the first nail in the coffin early this year with its announcement that it was Blu-ray or no way going forward for its high def DVDs. Best Buy and Netflix also threw down on the side of Blu-ray last week. Sony Studios, of course, had long ago cast its vote (Blu-ray is Sony technology). Disney, Fox and Lionsgate studios had also pronounced their Blu-ray allegiance. It was Wal-mart, shockingly, who was responsible for the final nail last Friday, when it announced that by June 2008, not a single HD-DVD movie or player would be found on its shelves. Anywhere. At all. In any of its 4,000 stores.

I must point out, however, that not even one year ago, Wal-mart, that bastion of rectitude and fair dealings, flexed its muscle to pronounce HD-DVD the winner. You read that right - in April 2007, plans were "leaked" that Wal-mart was going to be purchasing two million HD-DVD players to be sold super-cheap (< $200) for the 2007 holiday season (Wal-mart denied this claim). By October, reports were in (this time confirmed by Wal-mart) that Toshiba's HD-DVD players had been spotted on those illustrious shelves for just $198.

Let me get this straight - last year, just in time for the holidays, Wal-mart cuts the price on its HD-DVD players. And then, six weeks later, announces that it will be an exclusively Blu-Ray supplier going forward? Wow. That takes nerve.

I know how I'd feel right about now if I were a Wal-mart shopper with a spanking new HD-DVD player sitting at home.

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