Toshiba delivers its Betamax address

Toshiba officially dropped its plans for HD DVD Tuesday after Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Netflix and a parade of others abandoned the high-definition video format for Sony's Blu-ray.The statement indicates the obvious--HD DVD was doomed.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Toshiba officially dropped its plans for HD DVD Tuesday after Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Netflix and a parade of others abandoned the high-definition video format for Sony's Blu-ray. The statement indicates the obvious--HD DVD was doomed. The writing on the wall has been there for a while with the wheels really beginning to fall off the wagon at CES. Wal-Mart's announcement last week that it was going to support Sony's Blu-ray format solely basically put the final nail in the coffin.

Simply put, Toshiba has been Betamaxed. A few decades ago there were two video cassette recorder formats--VHS and Betamax. Betamax was championed by Sony, but lost out to the VHS format. Once that format scrum was resolved VCR sales took off.

It's going to be the same story here. Toshiba had no choice but to punt on HD DVD--and it's great news for the consumer that this format war didn't drag on for years and years. See Adrian Kingsley-Hughes' and Robin Harris' takes. Also: George Ou cracks open a Toshiba HD DVD player [gallery].

Here's Toshiba's surrender speech, which you could call its Betamax address, BTL style:

TOKYO--Toshiba Corporation today announced that it has undertaken a thorough review of its overall strategy for HD DVD and has decided it will no longer develop, manufacture and market HD DVD players and recorders. This decision has been made following recent major changes in the market. Toshiba will continue, however, to provide full product support and after-sales service for all owners of Toshiba HD DVD products.

Translation: We had no choice. But please don't buy any Toshiba HD DVD products even if they are dirt cheap. It costs us money to support.

HD DVD was developed to offer consumers access at an affordable price to high-quality, high definition content and prepare them for the digital convergence of tomorrow where the fusion of consumer electronics and IT will continue to progress.

"We carefully assessed the long-term impact of continuing the so-called 'next-generation format war' and concluded that a swift decision will best help the market develop," said Atsutoshi Nishida, President and CEO of Toshiba Corporation. "While we are disappointed for the company and more importantly, for the consumer, the real mass market opportunity for high definition content remains untapped and Toshiba is both able and determined to use our talent, technology and intellectual property to make digital convergence a reality." Translation: It's going to quite annoying to license Sony's format.

Toshiba will continue to lead innovation, in a wide range of technologies that will drive mass market access to high definition content. These include high capacity NAND flash memory, small form factor hard disk drives, next generation CPUs, visual processing, and wireless and encryption technologies. The company expects to make forthcoming announcements around strategic progress in these convergence technologies. Translation: So we goofed on HD DVD. We've got other stuff. By the way we have to say that.

Toshiba will begin to reduce shipments of HD DVD players and recorders to retail channels, aiming for cessation of these businesses by the end of March 2008. Toshiba also plans to end volume production of HD DVD disk drives for such applications as PCs and games in the same timeframe, yet will continue to make efforts to meet customer requirements. The company will continue to assess the position of notebook PCs with integrated HD DVD drives within the overall PC business relative to future market demand.

Translation: We're going to try and make HD lemonade here if possible with notebooks.

This decision will not impact on Toshiba's commitment to standard DVD, and the company will continue to market conventional DVD players and recorders. Toshiba intends to continue to contribute to the development of the DVD industry, as a member of the DVD Forum, an international organization with some 200 member companies, committed to the discussion and defining of optimum optical disc formats for the consumer and the related industries. Translation: We're still a player.

Toshiba also intends to maintain collaborative relations with the companies who joined with Toshiba in working to build up the HD DVD market, including Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, and DreamWorks Animation and major Japanese and European content providers on the entertainment side, as well as leaders in the IT industry, including Microsoft, Intel, and HP. Toshiba will study possible collaboration with these companies for future business opportunities, utilizing the many assets generated through the development of HD DVD.

Translation: We'll be back....

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