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Sony’s Blu-ray Wins DVD ‘Format War’ over Rival Toshiba

Toshiba said Tuesday that it would stop developing its own high-definition DVD player, known as HD DVD, leaving the market to Sony's Blu-ray format. The Wall Street Journal's technology columnist explains the move and its likely impact on consumers.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And now a victor emerges in the battle over high-definition DVDs. Ray Suarez has our story.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    After a long battle between Sony and Toshiba over the growing market for high-definition DVDs, consumers found out today they will have one choice available, the Blu-ray format made by Sony.

    Toshiba’s decision to surrender that market to Blu-ray came after a number of major movie studios, retailers and the movie rental company Netflix all announced recently they would only carry Sony’s format for high-definition DVDs. Retailers said both technologies have been competing to offer consumers a sharper picture.

  • KEN SICKMEN, Owner, Belmont TV:

    Both the HD DVD disc, which is produced by Toshiba, and the Blu-ray disc produced by Sony, are high-definition discs which are 1080 lines of resolution compared to a normal DVD, which is around 480 lines of resolution. So it’s about two-and-a-half times the resolution.

    As far as the comparison of HD DVD to Blu-ray, both of those formats are the same resolution and the end product, in terms of picture quality, are virtually the same.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    So given that, why did Sony win this war and what does it all mean for consumers? Walt Mossberg, personal technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal, is here with some answers.

    And, Walt, you write about this stuff for a living. If we’d fired up the competing systems on two side-by-side TVs, could you tell which was which?

  • WALTER MOSSBERG, Wall Street Journal:

    No, and neither could anybody except the most devoted videophile, Ray. And so this was not a consumer rebellion or a consumer decision as to who won this war.

    This was really decided by the two ends of the distribution chain, the people that make the content — that is, the Hollywood studios who were wooed heavily by Sony and Toshiba, and in the end more successfully by Sony — and the distributors, the stores, like Wal-Mart and Target and services like Netflix, which were also heavily wooed, and they eventually came down on the side of Blu-ray.

    But, really, their interest overall, I think, was to get something decided, because my advice to my readers — and I think the advice of most other reviewers — was to stay out of it until these guys settled it. And so the sales weren’t so great.

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