The sturm und drang over the Blu-ray vs HD DVD battle has come to naught. After a bit of jostling Blu-ray has taken an unassailable lead over HD DVD. Blockbuster's Matthew Smith, SVP of merchandising, says "The consumers are sending us a message. I can't ignore what I'm seeing." This is what he's seen:
Blockbuster has been renting both Blu-ray and HD DVD titles in 250 stores since late last year and found that consumers were choosing Blu-ray titles more than 70 percent of the time.
Ghost of Betamax laid to rest
Sony has played this game well. They own a movie studio, and got all but one of the major studios to release on Blu-ray. They put a Blu-ray player in every PS3. And they benefit by the rapid growth of HDTV sales.
Despite the disappointing sales of the PS3, the fact that it includes a Blu-ray player also tilted the playing field. A leading indicator: Toshiba recently reduced its US sales goal for HD DVD players by 40%. The rapid uptake of HDTV in the US completes the content-player-display triumvirate.
It is safe to buy that Blu-ray disk player now
The biggest loser in this is Toshiba. They've put a lot of time and money behind HD DVD. Microsoft is also a loser, partly as a supporter and partly because their add-on Xbox HD DVD player sales will tank. The folks who bought one can't be feeling too good about Microsoft's judgement.
Intel, another backer, loses too, but they seem to have had the least skin in the game. They probably just went along because of Microsoft.
The Storage Bits take
It is all over but the shouting. Expect to see some closeout sales on HD DVD players and burners, but I wouldn't buy one. Now that the market has shifted you can expect to see Blu-ray burner prices drop faster. I expect that Apple will be adding on on their next gen Mac Pro, and after that, the MacBook Pro.
In time this may also boost Firewire, which is substantially faster than USB. In fact, USB 2.0 probably can't handle 18x DVD writers at full speed, and 20x DVD writers are starting to make it to market. Once Blu-ray writers get up to 6x speed, Firewire will be the way to go.
The biggest winners though, are us, the consumers. 50 GB optical storage is good for all digital junkies. Now that we don't have to worry about the format war, we can get back to rip, mix, burn!
Comments welcome, as always. I'm heading up to the Google scalability conference in Seattle today - and avoiding some 100+ degree weather here in Arizona - so my response times may be more distended than usual.