Friday, January 26, 2007
In efforts to break the deadlock between their rival high definition digital video disc formats, Sony and Toshiba are both offering special promotional deals that combine equipment and movies during the holiday season.
Sony's Blu-ray high definition digital video disc format has been at odds with Toshiba's HD-DVD format since the two debuted nearly simultaneously. While both formats are based on blue laser technology, which encodes information more densely than the older red laser technology used by standard DVD's and CD's, they aren't compatible with each other. The fact that the players for one format can't read the discs of the other format have major implications, the most important of which is that only one format will likely survive.
Because only one format is likely to dominate the market and there's major money to be made through licensing deals for whichever company's format comes out on top, there is a lot of competition between Sony and Toshiba to make their format the more attractive one to consumers. Each format has advantages over the other. For example, Blu-ray packs substantially more data onto a disc, but HD-DVD players cost about half as much as the Blu-ray players.
The major problem that both companies face is that in order to make their format come out on top, they need to appeal to enough consumers to make it so that the most attractive movie and software titles will want to use their format, but consumers are slow to adopt either format. That's because consumers remember the VHS/Betamax format war of the early nineteen-eighties and are wary of spending good money on soon to be useless equipment- a folly that many people are eager to avoid repeating now. The result is a stalled market where consumers are watching and waiting while Toshiba and Sony struggle for an edge.
This struggle has led to two promotional offers designed to entice consumers to go ahead and take the plunge of buying one player or the other. Sony was the first to act by releasing a movie on Blu-ray disc along with its Play Station 3 (which also has a Blu-ray player built in). Toshiba has responded by allying with Microsoft to release King Kong on HD-DVD along with the attachable HD-DVD drive for it's Xbox 360 video game system.
Toshiba has gone to even greater lengths to win a following by providing three movie titles of the buyer's choice with the purchase of a HD-DVD player. The offer includes a limited by extensive list of movie titles from Universal, Paramount, and warner studios which include a variety of classic movies and newer titles.
Both offers have their benefits in and of themselves. Toshiba's offer has the advantage of providing three discs in more different movie titles which would appeal to a much wider audience than a single movie, but loyal fans of Sony's Play Station video game platform would be likely to buy the unit anyway and then see the added benefits of having a Blu-ray player built in. One factor that evens the playing field a bit in this case is that the Play Station 3 is more in line with the price of HD-DVD players than Sony's other Blu-ray players.
In the end, these offers could just prolong the format war, because they appeal to two different audiences: Blu-rays offer appeals to fans of Sony's Play Station, and the Toshiba offer appeals to just about everyone else.