Blu-ray Wins High-Def Battle . . . for Now Toshiba on Tuesday admitted defeat in the high-definition DVD format wars, announcing it would stop making its HD DVD players. The move leaves Sony's Blu-ray as the reigning hi-def format. But Blu-ray still has to win over consumers.
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Blu-ray Wins High-Def Battle . . . for Now

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Blu-ray Wins High-Def Battle . . . for Now

Blu-ray Wins High-Def Battle . . . for Now

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

The war is over. Toshiba has given up the fight to dominate the next generation of digital video discs and its take against HD DVD format off the market.

NPR's Laura Sydell reports, that means victory for Sony's Blu-ray disc.

LAURA SYDELL: Just a little over two weeks ago, Toshiba was buying some of the most expensive commercial time on television to promote HD DVD during the Super Bowl.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV AD)

HD DVD: What are you doing? The game's over. Watch movies in true high def with a Toshiba HD DVD player.

SYDELL: But today, Toshiba admitted defeat. No doubt, this is going to be a relief to consumers who have had a tough time over the past couple of years. If they wanted to upgrade from the old DVD formatting, get a player with high definition, they had to choose Blu-ray or HD DVD.

Best Buy salesman Rocky Branch heard about it...

ROCKY BRANCH: Every day. Every day, like, I haven't had a customer not ask me which one I would go with.

SYDELL: Branch said he didn't tell them which one to buy. He just gave them some basic advice about how to choose.

BRANCH: I tell them, like, that if you really want to know, take a look at what titles are available, see what manufacturers are supporting their products to get an idea of which one you want to go with.

SYDELL: In early January, that decision got easier - Warner Brothers Entertainment said it would stop putting its movies on HD DVD. That meant that four of the major studios were behind Blu-ray.

Last week, Netflix said it would stop carrying HD DVD and on Friday, Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, announced it would only sell Blu-ray. It's a big victory for Sony, but last time there was a format war between Sony's Betamax and VHS, Sony lost. This time they will win the royalties garnered from Blu-ray sales and it's likely to help the slow sales of the PlayStation 3 game console, which has a Blu-ray player.

Gartner Analyst, Van Baker.

VAN BAKER: It's easier for consumers to justify going out and buying a PlayStation 3 at its relatively high price tag because they get the added benefit of giving a Blu-ray movie player along with.

SYDELL: But for Sony, it maybe an empty victory. Now consumers can download movies from a variety of online retail shops like Netflix, Amazon and Apple.

BAKER: We're clearly going to see additional products come into market that follow that sort of usability model. And as those become increasing prevalent, physical media is, you know, going to diminished over time.

SYDELL: And even though there is now only one format to choose, many consumers may still be reluctant to dive in. Blu-ray isn't cheap, here at Best Buy, a Blu-ray disc sells for nearly 36 bucks.

Customer Mel Feranda says he'll wait.

MEL FERANDA: It's too expensive at the moment. I mean, eventually prices should drop, hopefully, and when that time comes, then I'll have the decision to convert...

SYDELL: Sony better start dropping those prices quickly or consumers like Feranda may simply skip it and move to downloads.

Laura Sydell, NPR News.

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