Friday, August 11, 2006

The format war: gee, never saw this coming! [/sarcasm]

The latest news about the HD-DVD/BluRay format war is that industry analysts see the whole thing ending in a "stalemate", with, as the linked BBC article puts it, "neither format [gaining] the upper hand and that the rivalry will do damage to the market for high-def DVDs overall."

This didn't have to happen. Competition is certainly a necessary ingredient in any free market economy. But you would think that the business world would be one in which people learned from history, and that in the interest of making money, different groups backing rival formats with the same ultimate goal — providing high definition for the ideal home theater experience — would try to reach common ground to make the whole shooting match a success.

Now no one stands to make money and everyone stands to lose. Consumers, seeing this stalemate in the offing, will hold off from buying either format. They will wait for a winner, and then when one never appears, they will lose interest. Couple this situation with the mediocre reviews that HD-DVD and Blu-Ray have both been getting out of the starting gate, and add to it the fact that the business seems to have collective amnesia regarding Beta-vs-VHS and DVD-Audio-vs-SACD, and you have a recipe for failure.

Next prediction: everyone will retrench and look to the XBox360 (supporting HD-DVD) and PlayStation 3 (supporting Blu-Ray) to settle the issue once and for all. When if they'd had a little foresight, there never would have been a issue needing settling. Sigh.

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