The high-definition format war was one that burned hot, but
faded out fast. Although some were expecting HD DVD to continue to fight the
good fight for a while longer, Toshiba threw in the towel on February 19 when
it announced that it would discontinue
manufacture of its HD DVD players.
Speaking to the Wall
Street Journal, president and CEO of Toshiba Corporation Atsutoshi
Nishida shared several of his thoughts during the final weeks of the HD DVD.
When asked when he first started considering Toshiba’s withdrawal
from the format war, Nishida pointed to Warner Bros.’ announcement
of Blu-ray Disc allegiance just before CES as the crucial point.
“We took a little time before reaching a final decision, so
we could give people a chance to voice their opinions and we could consider all
the ramifications and consequences of pulling out, such as how it would affect
consumers and us,” said Nishida. “I didn't think we stood a chance after Warner
left us because it meant HD DVD would have just 20% to 30% of software market
While some may view the fall of HD DVD as a black eye on
Toshiba, Nishida takes a more logical stance on the matter. “One has to take
calculated risks in business, but it's also important to switch gears
immediately if you think your decision was wrong. We were doing this to win,
and if we weren't going to win then we had to pull out, especially since
consumers were already asking for a single standard,” he said.
With HD DVD hardware production officially ceased at
Toshiba, the Japanese electronics company has one less growth product in its
roster. But Nishida isn’t worried, he said, “It was just one avenue of growth.
It was one of 45 strategic business units that we have. This just means we now
Although the battle for high-definition supremacy was highly
publicized, the mainstream consumer still spends the majority of his or her
entertainment dollar on regular DVDs.
“What people don't realize is that Hollywood studios are
going to release new titles not just for Blu-ray but for standard DVDs as well,
and there are a far greater number of current-generation DVD players out there,”
During the one of the final advertising pushes for HD DVD in
North America, Toshiba advertised that its HD DVD players also function
as upconversion hardware to scale regular 480p DVDs up to 1080i/p – a point
that Nishida clings on to. Toshiba has expressed no plans to make any Blu-ray
“If you watch standard DVDs on our players, the images are
of very high quality because they include an "upconverting" feature.
And we're going to improve this even more, so that consumers won't be able to
tell the difference from HD DVD images,” the Toshiba leader said. “The players
would be much cheaper than Blu-ray players too. Next-generation DVD players are
in a much weaker position than when standard DVD players were first introduced.”
To be sure, upscaling does improve the presentation of
standard DVD, especially on a high-end player such as the Toshiba HD-XA2 with
its REON chip; but a 1080p-encoded HD DVD or Blu-ray Disc offers six times the
resolution of a DVD – something that is clearly noticeable on larger displays.
In the heat of the battle, industry figures such as
Hollywood director Michael Bay and 20th Century Fox president Mike Dunn
theorized that Microsoft was looking past HD DVD and towards
digital downloads. When asked if Toshiba would put its efforts behind video
downloads, Nishida responded, “That's what we're hoping. We've been developing
technologies in this area already, but now that we don't have the HD DVD
business, I want to put even more energy into that.”