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High-Def Disc Battle in High Gear

30 Jul, 2007 By: Stephanie Prange

This fourth quarter will see lots of fireworks on the high-def front. Studios are drawing the big guns. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment is adding Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is bringing Steven Spielberg's classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind to the Blu-ray Disc lineup. Meanwhile, Warner Home Video will offer 300 on both formats, with a decided extras advantage on HD DVD. Stalwart HD DVD supporter Universal Studios Home Entertainment seems determined to take HD DVD extras to the next level with greater interactivity.

Hardware pricing has already begun to swoon, with the Blu-ray-enabled PlayStation 3 dropping by $100 (to $499) for the discontinued 60GB version, and Panasonic's $600 Blu-ray player hitting shelves. HD DVD supporter Toshiba already has dropped the price on its player to $299 (if you attended the recent Home Media Expo the HD A2 could be had for $99 with three movies). More is sure to come, with the HD DVD group determined to hit mass-market pricing. Rumors of low-priced dual-format players also are making the rounds.

The competitive forces of the home entertainment industry, the gaming industry, the consumer electronics industry and even the PC industry are focused on the battle between Blu-ray and HD DVD. Such company titans as Microsoft, Sony, Toshiba and many others have skin in the game and are showing no signs of backing down.

Retailers, too, have entered the fray with Blockbuster Inc. and Target showing support for Blu-ray while at least one high-end retailer I know of is adamantly in the HD DVD camp.

On the consumer side, I haven't seen such emotion since the days of Divx versus DVD. It seems every week I get a letter from either an ardent Blu-ray supporter or an HD DVD aficionado warning me not to show favoritism. At the recent Home Media Expo 2007, the studios courted Home Theater Forum members with freebies (including Blu-ray and HD DVD players), parties and presentations.

Yes, the fourth quarter should offer cliffhangers worthy of the most suspenseful Hollywood thriller.

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