Rest in peace, HD DVD.The battle for next-generation DVD has come to an end with Sony's Blu-ray beating Toshiba's HD DVD. This week, Toshiba announced it will no longer develop, manufacture and market HD DVD players and recorders after nearly all major studios decided to abandon the format for upcoming DVD releases.
In the coming months, HD DVD players and discs will disappear from store shelves as retailers focus solely on Blu-ray for high-definition DVD players and discs.
So what does this mean for consumers? Ultimate Electronics already has stopped selling HD DVD players, while Best Buy announced its plans to sell only Blu-ray players and discs. Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, plans to phase out HD DVD, as does Amazon.com. By June, Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores, as well as their Web sites, will offer only Blu-ray players and movies, said Jami Lamontagne, Wal-Mart spokeswoman.
"We've listened to our customers, who are showing a clear preference toward Blu-ray products and movies with their purchases," Gary Severson, Wal-Mart's senior vice president of home entertainment, said in a statement.
Wal-Mart plans to continue selling remaining HD DVD product, but customers will see a more prominent move toward Blu-ray in less than 30 days, Lamontagne said. Ultimate Electronics made the decision last month to stop selling HD DVD players after Warner Brothers announced it was going to begin releasing movies in high definition exclusively on Blu-ray by summer, said Matt Duda, director of merchandising.
"The decision for HD DVD to go away provides a clearer direction for consumers," he said. "Even though the current price of Blu-ray may be cost prohibitive for some consumers, now there's a clearly defined approach to high-definition content rather than having two competing formats."
It's unlikely that HD DVD's demise will prompt any immediate price reduction for Blu-ray players, which remained more expensive than most HD DVD players, Duda said.
"The pricing of Blu-ray has not fallen, nor does it need to fall yet because clearly as the predominant technology (it's) going to immediately see an increase in its business," he said.
The Ultimate Electronics store on Stapley Drive in Mesa is currently sold out of Blu-ray players, and 35 to 40 units have pre-sold and will arrive within the next couple of weeks. The players range in price from $399 up to $2,000 for the latest model arriving in March. HD DVD players can be purchased for $150 or less than $100 online.
Sam Brenneman and his brother, Jaris Brenneman, are not among those ready to jump on the Blu-ray bandwagon. They appreciate the clarity and quality of Blu-ray, but not the price.
"Maybe I'd buy Blu-ray some time in the future once it becomes a little more affordable," Sam Brenneman said.
"Blu-ray is especially expensive right now," Jaris Brenneman said.
As for HD DVD players, just because they are being phased out and the number of new HD DVD movies will soon disappear, it doesn't mean they're obsolete and worthless, Duda said. Every HD DVD player increases the resolution of standard-definition DVDs and improves the picture quality, he said.
"The HD DVD player is still a great player," he said. "It's not an inferior technology when it comes to standard-definition technology."
Now that HD DVD is dead, more consumers are likely to make the jump to high-definition DVD, while many will continue waiting until more movies come out and prices come down, Duda said.