HD DVD vs. Blu-ray: Netflix says no winner yet

January 24, 2007, 1:15 PM UTC
Fortune

Toshibahda2The price of high definition movie viewing keeps coming down. Toshiba’s highly rated HD-A2 HD DVD player is now $395.88 at Amazon.com (AMZN), where it is the #16 best-selling DVD player.

Blu-ray, not to be outdone, is dropping, too: The Samsung BD-P1000 (and the Philips BDP9000) are $599.

But the HD A2 at $395 is significant for another reason. It’s now

comparably priced to the best standard DVD players from the likes

of Denon. Those DVD players “upconvert,” which is lingo for taking a standard definition picture and making it look better on high-definition screens.

Those price declines add fuel to the fiery debate around HD DVD and Blu-ray, which is better and which will win. Some of the fiercest debaters frequent this blog; an HD DVD vs. Blu-ray post from last month has more than 300 comments so far from people arguing the merits of the two formats. A frequent side topic is the relative merits of Sony’s (SNE) PlayStation 3 and Microsoft’s (MSFT) Xbox 360, since Sony backs Blu-ray and Microsoft backs HD DVD.

My take: It’s still too early to declare a leader. I called Netflix (NFLX) to see what kind of trends the subscription movie rental service is seeing in HD movies – since I’d be more likely to use that service for HD movies than to buy my favorite films all over again. Spokesman Steve Swasey said the numbers are still too low, so he can’t

say one has an edge.

To stoke the fires a bit, here are a few interesting tidbits from other publications on the rivalry:

From Video Business:

Chinese manufacturers by the end of this year will roll out lower-priced HD DVD set-top players to the U.S. market, which could greatly expand household penetration for the format, HD DVD promotional group execs said here Jan. 7. Chinese manufacturers Alco, Shinco and Lite-On will join Toshiba in makingplayers, as will Japanese company Onkyo, execs announced. … Car system manufacturer Alpine is making a player for cars. … Overall, the group is projecting more than 2.5 million players will be sold through 2007.

From Personal Computer World:


The

Blu-ray standards group claimed at CES that Blu-ray has overtaken HD-DVD in terms of sales of Hollywood movies, and that it now has a clear edge over its rival. This is despite a year of setbacks for Blu-ray, including the delayed launch of Sony’s Playstation 3 games console, which uses the technology. The PS3, which has yet to ship in Europe, is one of seven Blu-ray players available in the US, including the dual-mode LG (see above). Seven of the eight major Hollywood studios sell films in the Blu-ray format – five of them exclusively – and 19 of last year’s top 20 movies are available in the format, the group claimed. HD-DVD players are cheaper than Blu-ray, and the format took an early lead, but competition will drive down Blu-ray prices now that more players are available, said Blu-ray group chairman Alan Parsons.