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A roadmap for ending the high-def format quagmire

Don Reisinger thinks he knows how to get us out from the high-def format war. Will his three-step process work?

Can Sony put an end to this war? Blu-ray

How many times over the past few months have you heard that "the worst is over" and the chances of the high-def format war finally coming to a close were increasing by the day? If you haven't heard it at least once, you're probably not reading the right stories.

But with all that going on, the war is officially a quagmire for both sides and the chances of getting out of this quickly are diminishing at an astounding rate. Consider this: as it stands, the Blu-ray camp commands roughly 49 percent DVD market share, while HD DVD is trailing slightly behind. To make matters worse, some reports suggest HD DVD may be gaining strength, although most buyers are sitting out.

So what's really going on with this war? Is there an end in sight? Even better, is there a solution in sight that can finally put this to rest? If you ask me, I think this could be over in a month if the Blu-ray camp follows three steps.

Step 1: Warner

Warner Bros. is, without a doubt, the most important element of ending this quagmire. As I said above, Sony currently commands 49 percent of the DVD market before Warner jumps on board. But with a little coaxing (and financial massaging), Sony could probably get Warner to take its side. If it can succeed in this, most estimates put Blu-ray's share of the DVD market at about 70 percent, while the HD DVD camp is left to flounder.

Now, the biggest issue with this is getting Warner on board. More often than not, Warner's representatives have come out and said that it plans on being neutral until it sees a clear-cut winner emerge. To make matters worse, the company is actually performing relatively well by supporting all three formats (DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-ray), so there is no immediate need to join one side or the other.

As if that wasn't enough, the HD DVD side of the war still harbors support from Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks, and Universal Studios, to name a few, and the chances of any of these companies leaving this format could be difficult without Warner's Blu-ray backing.

Interestingly enough, if Warner would decide on HD DVD because of its cheaper cost of production, the war would officially hit a standstill and the chances of this ending soon are all but over.

Simply put, Sony must do whatever it can to bring Warner aboard. Not only would it give its format a commanding lead in the market, it would almost surely attract other studios to join its side and put an end to this once and for all.

Step 2: Slash prices on all players

Although prices of Blu-ray and HD DVD players are coming down, none have hit the sub-$100 price point long enough to justify a purchase. Worse, most consumers are downright confused and others couldn't care less about the future of HD DVD and Blu-ray.

But with Warner now on board, Sony would need to deal the death blow as soon as possible. Surely it could drop prices on its media, but the most effective solution would be to drop the prices of its players.

Much like its gaming division, Sony should sell its own players at a loss for a while to increase adoption rates. Sound a bit too extreme for an industry that doesn't employ this tactic? Think of the alternative: with so much money invested in this format, Sony currently runs the chance of losing everything if Blu-ray becomes a debacle. At this point, nothing should be left to chance.

As far as I'm concerned, each and every Blu-ray player should hit the magic sub-$100 price point as soon as the deal is inked with Warner. In effect, this will help create two scenarios--people would take notice that more movies are available on Blu-ray and the players are cheaper than (or the same price as) HD DVD hardware. If that's true, what's the impetus for people to buy Toshiba's device?

Step 3: Get in contact with HD DVD's supporters and inform them of the bad news

Once steps one and two are complete, Sony must do everything it can to get in touch with HD DVD's supporters and fill them in on the writing on the wall. After all, once Warner jumps on board and sales start increasing for Blu-ray, what are the chances that these studios want anything to do with HD DVD anyway?

Even better, the deals Sony could make with the other studios would almost surely turn out to be far more lucrative than the Warner deal and it finally completes the ultimate goal--victory.

Believe it or not, this war could be ended sooner than you think. It just all depends on Sony's ability to make sound business decisions. If you ask me, we're probably in for a long one.