Confusion Reported on Eve of HD DVD Launch

It's hard to believe that, finally, the launch of HD DVD players and movie titles (albeit, a very limited selection) is less than three weeks away (March 28). Several video Web sites report that, while most consumers remain in the dark about the ongoing battle over a dominant next-gen DVD format, retailers themselves are pretty much confused about what to expect from Toshiba and other HD DVD format supporters as far as tangible product.

Retailers have complained about a vacuum of information, which has led to either some very low-key marketing strategies for the advent of HD DVD, or no marketing at all. Some observers pin the alleged problem on the format war itself, speculating that both sides are being so guarded in what information they provide about their rollout plans that no one -- notably retailers and consumers -- are creating any serious buzz. (A multi-city demo tour of HD DVD products by Toshiba so far is having little impact nationally.)

Wal-Mart (opens in new tab) is expected to sell new HD DVD titles (and, eventually, Blu-ray) at some of the lowest prices, and the super-merchant is now reportedly taking pre-orders for Warner titles that will be officially released at the end of this month.

Yet Wal-Mart does not appear to be taking pre-orders for Toshiba's first two DVD player models. How many consumers who routinely purchase their electronics at Wal-Mart because of pricing will actually shell out an estimated $350 to $400 for the lower-priced HD DVD Toshiba player is yet to seen. Sony, for its part, no doubt is closely watching Toshiba's launch as Sony ponders its own late-May launch of Blu-ray.