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HD DVD strikes back through Toshiba

Toshiba is expanding its HD DVD product range and studios are releasing more HD DVD titles in the latest salvo in the high definition format battle.

Rio Bravo
Cowboy heaven John Wayne classics Rio Bravo, The Searchers, and The Cowboys are heading for HD DVD, as well as Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles and Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven.

In his first media conference since taking back control of Toshiba's AV product range from Melbourne-based distributor Castel Electronics, Toshiba ISD General Manager Mark Whittard conceded that the HD DVD format the company is pushing has its work cut out for it in Australia -- but argued that it is far from dead.

"The so-called Blu-ray vs. HD DVD war is not over," stated Whittard, who went on to quote statistics that claimed standalone HD DVD players were outselling Blu-ray by a 55 to 45 percent margin in the US, and by a 73 to 27 percent margin in Europe. The figures, however, are based on sales of standalone players only, and do not include notebooks, external drives or game consoles -- most notably the Blu-ray enabled PlayStation 3.

Locally, Whittard says Toshiba has sold 2000 units of its Toshiba HD-E1 player through June 2007. With the introduction of two more HD DVD players, the HD-EP10 and the HD-XE1, Toshiba projects sales of 1500 more units this month.

Toshiba also promotes HD DVD through the 5000 Qosmio laptops it has sold in Australia to date. External HD DVD drives and 5-10 more Qosmio models will also be launched into the Toshiba HD DVD arsenal in coming months.

While Toshiba is the lone major AV vendor behind the HD DVD format -- LG and Samsung have a foot in both format camps -- it has the support of movie studios Universal Pictures, Warner Bros and Paramount Home Entertainment. Toshiba will be bundling from three to six free HD DVD films with every player sold in Australia through September 30.

The titles on offer through the Toshiba promotion are a mixed bag, but the news from Warner Bros on its upcoming HD DVD releases is promising. Warner Home video has released 30 HD DVD titles in Australia so far and plans to double that number by the end of the year. The mix of genres including classics -- Blade Runner, Goodfellas, Full Metal Jacket, The Dirty Dozen -- and new movies -- 300, The Departed, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix -- is improving. Blood Diamond is the first HD DVD title to feature Internet connectivity, which opens up access to more movie-related online information.