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Why Microsoft will announce an Xbox Blu-ray player soon

Don Reisinger thinks an Xbox 360 Blu-ray player add-on is a given. Will Microsoft really succumb to Sony's pressures and do it?

Now that Engadget is reporting Toshiba will wave the white flag tomorrow and finally put an end to the high-def format war once and for all, there are a whole new set of questions that must be answered.

Will Toshiba move to Blu-ray? What will the company do with the technology? Will it sell the HD DVD name to the Blu-ray folks?

But perhaps most importantly, what will Microsoft do? The company has been a staunch supported of HD DVD since the beginning and it currently offers an HD DVD add-on for its Xbox 360 console. But now that the format is dead and the rightful winner is ready to be crowned, will Microsoft ignore the format war and go about its business or try to jump on the Blu-ray bandwagon?

Trust me -- within a month, the company will announce a Blu-ray add-on for the Xbox 360.

A month ago, that very assertion would have sounded ludicrous to all but the most cynical of tech followers. But after one short month, quite a bit has changed and suddenly Microsoft is far behind Sony in the HD realm.

Consider this -- the Playstation 3 has officially become the only console that's capable of playing high-def movies and although some may still find some benefit in owning Microsoft's HD DVD player, it wouldn't surprise me if they landed in the junkyard in a matter of minutes after Toshiba announces its failure.

Realizing this, does Microsoft want to look like the loser who doesn't have the functionality to compete? Even worse, won't the Xbox 360 suddenly look like the console that may be able to play games, but can't let you enjoy high-def movies? And now that the PS3 is much closer to the Xbox 360 in terms of price, how many people that are looking for an "in" to the next-gen format would choose Microsoft's console over Sony's?

Of course, Microsoft is quick to say that "games sell hardware" and the death of HD DVD will not have any major impact on its console. And while this argument may hold some water in the short-term, I don't think it can expect its place in the market to remain constant if it doesn't allow its customers to enjoy Blu-ray movies.

But in the end, Microsoft is in trouble. Blu-ray is Sony's and there's no chance that Microsoft can wield any power over the media. To make matters worse, Sony is its biggest competitor in the video gaming space and it'll be forced to pay the piper just to compete. In effect, Sony's win in the format war goes far beyond media.

But all that needs to be thrown out and Microsoft must swallow its pride and pay up. Why you ask? Simple -- if it doesn't Sony will use it as a platform to spew lunacy about how the PS3 is the only "real" next-gen platform and isn't living in the past like its competitors. And although it'll use Microsoft's Blu-ray player as a springboard for other attacks, it won't be nearly as bad as the aforementioned alternative.

And whether you want to believe it or not, Microsoft realizes that it's in a bad position, but it must release a Blu-ray player. In effect, a Microsoft Blu-ray player would allow the company to at least say owners have the ability to play high-def movies and it would eliminate a major competitive advantage Sony could hang over its head.

Of course, time also plays a factor in Microsoft's decision. If it waits too long to set the ball in motion, Sony will have a field day and we'll be left wondering why Microsoft hasn't responded.

Blu-ray is coming to the Xbox 360 within the next month. Trust me, it's Microsoft's only course of action going forward.