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Blu-ray's Battle Has Only Just Begun

3 Mar, 2008 By: Home Theater Forum

The costly format war between Toshiba's HD DVD and Sony's Blu-ray Disc has come to an end. Blu-ray has emerged from the fray victorious, while HD DVD has unceremoniously left the field. So Blu-ray will naturally assume the mantle of DVD's heir-apparent, right?

Maybe. But the reality is the war with HD DVD was just a battle. There are still tough times ahead for Blu-ray, as the real war for market dominance against DVD is just beginning.

In order to overcome the tremendous inertia of DVD, Blu-ray has to offer buyers something new and innovative. Short of having price parity with DVD, it needs to wow consumers in a way it currently doesn't.

With low-cost up-converting players available, Blu-ray offers very little practical improvement over DVD for the average consumer. It is banking on its super high-quality audio and video, but the cost of entry for these improvements isn't cheap.

With the retail pricing of some bare-bones discs around $40 and full-profile standalone players costing $500 (all added to the price of an HDTV), the format is strictly for eager enthusiasts. For the wider public, the numbers just don't add up yet. Consumers need to feel it's worth the premium to buy into the format.

If the studios are smart, they will focus on the value proposition by expanding the format's largely untapped potential as a fully interactive experience, while reducing prices to lure new buyers. Likewise, Blu-ray player manufacturers must begin reducing hardware prices.

If Blu-ray can offer creative features and a quality viewing experience at a reasonable price, it has a shot, but it must move fast since there is only a brief window to succeed thanks to the hovering threat of cheap high-definition Web downloads.

For now the format's future is still uncertain, and the eyes of many will be closely scrutinizing its direction over the coming months. Any wrong step could still see it consigned to the scrap heap of dead formats that have tried valiantly and failed. Any doubts? Just ask Toshiba.

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