Blu-ray, HD DVD Joust at CeBIT

The so-called “format war” between high-definition DVD formats HD DVD and Blu-ray might not be a shooting match on most days, but when you add a little gasoline to the fire in the form of an international trade show like CeBIT, the camps seem to enjoy an occasional tactical engagement.

Sony has been bragging lately that the high-definition war is all but over, declaring themselves the winner based on recent U.S. sales data and the fact every PlayStation 3 game console ships with a Blu-ray drive. Today at CeBIT, the Blu-ray Disc Association chairman Frank Simonis upped the ante even further, declaring that not only will Blu-ray beat out HD DVD, it will completely do in the standard DVD. “Within three years it will just be Blu-ray,” he said at the CeBIT trade show.

Sony said it has sold 1.84 million PlayStation 3 systems by the end of 2006, and has a million more ready to launch in Europe next week.

For its part, the HD DVD camp concedes that PS3 sales mean HD DVD players are being outsold almost five to one, but claims that sales of movie titles in HD DVD format are still level with Blu-ray titles. At first glance, that would appear to be quite a feat: five major Hollywood studios are currently only issuing titles in Blu-ray format (MGM, Columbia, Disny, Lionsgate, and 20th Century Fox), and they include the top-grossing film studios; only Universal and Weinstein are issuing titles exclusively in HD DVD format. Paramount, Dreamworks Warner Bros., and New Line Cinema are issuing titles in both formats.

However, the HD DVD camp says Hollywood titles aren’t the whole story, noting they have the backing of industry titan Microsoft and HD DVD is showing strong adoption in the PC market. Furthermore, the HD DVD Promotion Group announced the formation of the European HD DVD Promotional Group, and noted more than 100 HD DVD titles will be available throughout Europe by the end of the first quarter of 2007, with a third of those titles being from European studios. According to the group, none of them are available in any other high-definition format and the discs are all manufactured and replicated in Europe. By December 2007, the group estimates more than 600 HD DVD titles will be available worldwide. Toshiba has also announced a new HD DVD player for the European market, supporting 1080p playback; the EP10 will be available in May at an estimated price of €699.