That pending face-off between two very impressive--and very incompatible proposed standards for high definition DVD--may not be as pending as it seemed only a couple of weeks ago. Talks have reportedly been underway between reps of Sony's Blu-ray format and Toshiba's HD DVD format, although both sides were apparently not putting the champagne on ice quite yet.
The comparison is almost too easy, but it was also Sony, of course, who had pushed its ill-fated Betamax videotape format so valiantly years ago, against the relentless acceptance of VHS into the home. (Never mind that a lot of engineers will tell you Beta was better. It's all in the marketing, marketing, marketing.) It probably doesn't hurt that the CEO of Sony these days is Howard Stringer, who has enough ties with the Hollywood motion picture and television industries that probably a day doesn't go by when someone doesn't call to plead with him to come up with a solution that will save everyone involved a whole lot of money, and consumers a whole lot of confusion.
Retailers, too, can't be looking forward to the huge number of angry customers they'll have to face as soon as they discover that their particular DVD player will play some HD discs and not others. Both sides seem to be offering careful words of encouragement, at least through the media, according to the tactful Stringer and others quoted in The Wall Street Journal the other day. This is our new "stay tuned" story (now that the Cablevision-Voom family feud appears to be over).
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