Toshiba announced the discontinuation of the HD DVD format today, ending the format war that had been taking place the last few years with Sony’s Blu-ray technology. While choice is quite often a good thing for customers, in this case it had been stalling growth in what should be a lucrative high definition disc industry.
Not only is this good news for the movie industry, it’s good news for the computer industry as well. With flash memory-based devices getting cheaper, the usefulness of the DVD as a storage medium is going to be tested relatively soon. However a Blu-ray disc can hold several times the amount of data that a DVD can – up to 50 gigabytes, making it well-suited for back-ups as well as very large software installations.
In fact, storage space was one of the few differentiating factors between the two formats. HD DVD could hold only about half as much data as the Blu-ray format.
The HD DVD/Blu-ray format was seen to be at a stalemate by Sony’s own chief executive Howard Stringer as recently as November of last year. However, when Warner Brothers decided to exclusively back the Blu-ray format in January (they had been releasing their films on both formats), it set in motion a series of events including Netflix and Best Buy shifting into the Blu-ray camp. By the time Wal-Mart decided last week to stop selling HD DVD merchandise in its stores, it was already a foregone conclusion that HD DVD was going to meet its demise.
Another winner in this battle is Sony’s Playstation 3 video game system which has included a Blu-ray drive since its inception. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 opted to offer an external HD DVD drive which will of course be made obsolete now, but there are already rumors of a Blu-ray drive making its way to the 360 in short order.