Warner Bros. Entertainment may have cast the deciding vote in the Blu-ray vs. HD DVD format war, announcing yesterday-- just before the big Consumer Electronics Show opens in Las Vegas-- that Warner will support Blu-ray exclusively starting in June 2008.
I'm at CES, where I've just left the CES Unveiled press event. Although there was a lot of cool stuff in the various booths providing a sneak peek of the CES show floor (all 1.8 million square feet of it)--and I'll be covering some of this cool stuff in future blog posts-- the topic of the evening was the Warner announcement and what it means for the HD DVD camp.
Opinions are mixed as to the immediate effect of the announcement. Some believe the DVD Forum (which manages the HD DVD format) and its member companies should just give up now and accept the inevitable victory of Blu-ray. Others want to wait to see how Blu-ray and HD DVD player and title sales go following the Christmas season, which was fairly successful for both formats. This group argues that if HD DVD titles continue to sell well, perhaps the HD DVD format can hang on and maybe...maybe...eventually triumph.
But Warner is today one of the bigger suppliers of HD DVD titles, and all that ends on May 31 when the company stops distributing in that format. This decision sets a deadline for HD DVD supporters. If they can't show a path to victory by then, they probably never will.
Personally I'm expecting to hear Apple announce its support for Blu-ray in the new Mac Pro and MacBook products coming at MacWorld Expo in 10 days. Actually I expected Apple to throw its weight behind Blu-ray during 2007, but I'm still pretty sure it'll happen.
If Blu-ray wins the format war, Apple will probably gain an edge in the PC war as well, since Microsoft is one of the major supporters of HD DVD. But it's mostly an image thing; Microsoft is only committed to HD DVD for Xbox 360 and not so much for the PC. Shifting the support of the Windows division to Blu-ray would be no big deal, since both formats have virtually identical technical requirements.
Another consequence of a Blu-ray victory--the CES 2008 tote bag, sponsored by Toshiba on behalf of the HD DVD format, is likely to become something of a collector's item...