|Toshiba HD-A2. Image: Toshiba|
The battle for the future of the high-definition DVD has taken an intriguing turn: For the first time, mega-retailer Wal-Mart (WMT) has begun selling a player for less than $200.
In various online forums, enthusiasts have reported seeing the Toshiba HD-A2 HD DVD player available in stores for $198, significantly less than its common price of $230-$280.
Such low prices could shift momentum in the high-definition format war between HD DVD and Blu-ray, which are vying to be the successor to today’s ubiquitous DVD. Like mainstream DVD players, HD DVD and Blu-ray players accept DVDs. But they also play high-definition discs in their own formats, which look sharper on today’s large, flat televisions.
“We reduced our HD DVD Toshiba player, the generation-two, to $198 earlier in the week,” Wal-Mart spokeswoman Melissa O’Brien confirmed. “It’s happening now, and that’s really all I can tell you. We don’t give any information on what we’re planning to do for the holidays. We know HD DVD and Blu-ray are going to be popular items this holiday season for some of our customers. … They will be more popular this year than they were in previous years.”
O’Brien said rumors that each Wal-Mart store would stock only 18 units of the Toshiba player were false. “There are no limited quantities for stores or purchases.”
If the cut-rate Toshiba HD DVD players prove especially popular, Wal-Mart’s move could also set up a holiday-season retail showdown with Best Buy (BBY), Circuit City (CC) and others who rely on popular items to lure shoppers into stores. Those other retailers could feel pressure to stock their own low-cost HD-DVD players to drive store traffic.
It’s not clear what the Blu-ray camp will do to respond to the price cuts. While the Sony-backed Blu-ray format has more support from Hollywood studios as mentioned above, Blu-ray players also cost more than HD DVD to manufacture. That’s why Blu-ray players continue to cost more than $400 while HD DVD is available for half the price.