DVD Talks on Single HD Format Stalled

May 18, 2005
Talks between Sony and Toshiba aimed at reaching some type of compromise over their incompatible next-generation DVD formats reportedly have stalled once again. Given the late date--and the fact that at least one of the formats is expected to hit the market within six months--led The Wall Street Journal this week to conclude that "further progress is unlikely." Also complicating the chances for a workable compromise between Toshiba's HD DVD and Sony's Blu-ray formats is that Sony owns its own movie studio with thousand of titles ready for reformatting to the next level of DVD.

Unfortunately for other movie producers, DVD player manufacturers and consumers, this impasse is all but certain to slow the transition to higher-capacity DVD discs that will allow the storage of HD-quality motion pictures and/or more interactive features. Once consumers learn that they will be forced to choose equipment and entertainment products based on two incompatible formats, it's widely feared that many likely will wait it out to see if one format wins out over the other--as with the (thankfully short-lived) VHS vs. Beta wars.

Sony may have more at stake than just its movie-centric DVD format; Its much-anticipated PlayStation 3 debuts this week to compete with the just-announced Xbox 360 and Sony's next-generation videogame console will used its own Blu-ray technology.

Therefore, since both competing DVD formats are different enough to make minor technical compromise tweaking implausible, any possible victory down the road for Toshiba's HD DVD scheme could spell bad news for Sony's popular videogaming, too. In other words, there's a lot at stake for both sides in this latest format battle, and neither side likely will give up without a prolonged, and very expensive, fight. As usual, stay tuned.

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