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Tech roundup: Blu-Ray to best HD DVD in format wars?

Reports that Toshiba will halt production of its high-definition video format leaves analysts declaring Sony the victor.

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Through 2007, the two formats were evenly matched. But some analyists say the tipping point came on Jan. 4, 2008, when Warner Bros. announced that it would move exclusively to Blu-Ray, leaving Universal and Paramount as the only remaining major movie studios to support HD DVD. With Warner's decision, Blu-Ray locked in about about 70 percent of the high-definition video market.

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Toshiba responded by slashing prices on its HD DVD players to as low as $150. But that did not stop rumors that one of the format's biggest backers, Microsoft, could be jumping ship. The Australian tech site Smarthouse reported that Microsoft is working on a Blu-Ray Xbox 360 gaming console. The Xbox 360 currently supports the HD DVD format, while its competitor, the Sony Playstation 3, supports Blu-Ray.

For the general public, the end of the hi-def format wars could mean an end to consumer confusion. Reuters predicts that shoppers will be less reluctant to buy now that a clear winner has emerged.

The Blu-ray win means consumers seeking sharper movies on high-definition DVDs no longer have to choose between rival incompatible formats and run the risk of being stuck with a 21st century equivalent of Betamax -- Sony's videotape technology that lost out to VHS in the 1980s.
Having one format should also help accelerate the shift to the new technology in the $24 billion (12.3 billion pound) home DVD market.

The Associated Press notes that 1 million people around the world who already have purchased HD DVD players will be disappointed.

Blu-Ray seems to have prevailed, but Wired magazine is not impressed. Their gadget blog argues that movie downloads will render the competition between disc formats "irrelevant":

This leaves Blu-Ray as the presumptive victor in the irrelevant optical disk format war. It now must face up to the real competition: the continuing success of DVD and the growing popularity of downloads, both on the internet and on-demand cable TV.