the winner is... THE MOVIE STUDIOS.
The SMARTEST movie studios (and I don't keep a current list in my head of who supports which format) put out titles on BOTH formats, thus hedging their bets, for sure (not to mention that some of the really techno-crazy folks with big wallets will actually BUY A TITLE in BOTH FORMATS if they have BOTH PLAYERS).
The FUNNIEST thing yet is the LG dual-format player, which costs EXACTLY as much as the reduced-price Samsung Blu-Ray player PLUS the cost of a Toshiba HD-DVD player. Now why would ANYONE in his right mind (or even anyone half-baked) risk a tricky, expensive, dual-format machine, which when (not if, but WHEN) it breaks they'll have NOTHING to play their double-priced movies on, when for the same price they could have TWO COMPLETE, SEPARATE players of the different formats, so that at least if one breaks they still have the other?!?
I also noticed that although most HD-DVD MOVIES were released at 1080P, it was only very recently that Toshiba released its first 1080P HD-DVD PLAYER (they just LOVE to confuse folks in the ADS, however, by referencing them as 1080i, which ANY 720P TV is also capable of producing!) On the other hand, as far as I can tell ALL the Blu-Ray players have been 1080P from the beginning... But AHHHH there's the rub...
Although there are now MANY 1080P TVs for sale, and some very nice ones at finally reasonable prices, to boot, I don't see ANYONE broadcasting at 1080P yet. I don't see any serious DISCUSSION of it, either. In fact, many cable channels, such as Sci-Fi, USA, FX, etc., are JUST getting geared up for standard 720P HD broadcasting late this year. Why, you might ask, is 1080P broadcasting a "non-starter" at this point? Well, it's very simple... it will take 4 times as much bandwidth, and cable and satellite bandwidth is already being really SQUEEZED between broadband internet usage, hundreds of SDTV channels, existing 720P HD and the new ones coming on board. There simply isn't the bandwidth available, at present, to provide 1080P over cable or satellite feeds... At least that's MY understanding of the situation; anyone who's an electrical engineer or industry insider and has better information feel free to correct me or elaborate.
So this leaves folks who buy 1080P TVs stuck with enjoying that extra resolution ONLY with HD movies played on Blu-Ray or the newer generations of HD-DVD players (of course far be it from the folks at Best Buy, Circuit City or any other retailer to point these facts out when they have google-eyed customers foaming at the mouth over the latest 61" 1080P set -- would you???).
What I did, since I don't believe in buying many movies, anyway, as my history is that when I've bought them on tape in the pre-DVD era was that I'd watch them a few times and then they'd just sit somewhere, is this past Black Friday (day after Thanksgiving) I picked up an "upscaling" Zenith DVD player at Circuit City for $49 with NO REBATE, even! This player claims it will upscale regular DVDs to 720P or 1080i, although I haven't used it enough to really tell (I have a few DVDs I bought I still haven't watched, so maybe I'll know more later). But I know the picture looks as good as I could ask for on my 27" LCD 720P TV.
If things continue like they are, with no THIRD technology coming along that displaces both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, my prediction is that UNLESS 1080P becomes a broadcast standard, as well, HD-DVD is going to win this battle due primarily to price. Right now, for instance, Best Buy has one of the older, "1080i" Toshiba models on sale for $299... I had said when all this stuff started that $299 was a "tipping point" price for me, and if I really wanted a high-def player that much, I'd likely bite at that price, even though I don't like Toshiba... The simple fact is that regardless of whether Blu-Ray costs more to make, therefore somehow justifying charging more for the players, in the end, Toshiba and it's partners are charging just $500 or thereabouts for the full 1080P HD-DVD players, whereas Samsung and Sony are asking $700-$1,000 for theirs, with the disks costing about the same, but the Blu-Ray disks being more fragile, requiring greater care, so that's another downside for Blu-Ray.
As for the burners. I thought that might be nice to have, and have been looking at those, since putting one of the burners in your computer also gives you the capability to play the movies. The only problem is that the blank media for the burners is so expensive you'd come out WAY cheaper using DVDs as backups instead -- or even buying external hard drives, filling them up, and putting them in a filing cabinet somewhere (it's about $40 for a single 50 GB dual-layer Blu-Ray disk).
Lest we forget, Sony came out first with the VCR, as well. Sony was the BIGGEST KID ON THE BLOCK in electronics, too. It's technology ws superior to the latecomer Video Home System, as well. But what won -- Beta or VHS? I think we all know the answer to THAT question.
I agree it's fine if "early adopters" want to take their chances on one technology or the other -- particularly if they have the money to burn (I don't). I see it like this: whichever player they buy, they'll be able to play all the movies they buy for that player in perpetuity, and if that format bites the dust, they'll be able to pick up movies they didn't get early on at steep discounts.
As for me, I can barely keep up with all the movies and programs I have access to on cable TV... What do I need with a new player?