The current struggle for supremacy in the DVD technology sector is frustrating consumers and retailers. The high-stakes war between HD DVD and Blu-ray is certain to escalate this year and could, electronics retailers warn, leave both out in the cold.
At the heart of the matter is a disagreement between Toshiba and Sony over which technology to implement in the next generations of DVDs. Sony is behind Blu-ray, which itself is bankrolling. Toshiba’s offering is HD-DVD. The two technologies are not that different from each other, although Blu-ray claims to allow more storage but at a higher price.
But it’s bigger than that. A list of major corporations supporting one technology over the other reads like a list of who’s who on the Forbes list. Backing Blu-ray are most major American motion picture studios, Apple Computer, Hewlett Packard, Hitachi, Pioneer, Samsung, and Panasonic. HD DVD has in its camp Microsoft, Intel, NEC, and other electronics luminaries.
Major electronics retailers like Best Buy and Circuit City don’t seem to care which format “wins” because they think that they as the middle men will be the “big losers.”
“We are frustrated,” said Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson. “We are going to wind up with some number of consumers probably buying a format that dies, and we are probably going to wind up having to sell it to them. They are not going to be happy with us.”
CompUSA Chief Executive Larrn Mondry agreed. “I don’t care which way it goes, I just want it to go one (particular) way,” he said.
Retailers and industry experts say that the difference between the new technologies and what is already on the shelf will be minimal to all but the most sophisticated consumers. Still, it is those consumers who will routinely lay out large sums of money for superior picture quality and storage capability.
The jury is still out on which technology will survive, or if they both will. For now, consumers are sure to have many options and retailers are sure to have many headaches.