Choosing the wrong side in a format war

MSFT finds itself in this situation after the HD-DVD format it backed was finally consigned to the dustbin of history after Toshiba announced that it will stop producing the players. This was a domino effect, starting with the studious announcing Blu-Ray exclusive production, Netflix switching and finally WalMart saying the last word.

That leaves the question of what to do with all those XBox 360s with HD-DVD drives which are going to be about as useful as a brick in a few years. In fact the decisive and abrupt BluRay victory has just created a large collection of expensive and useless gadgetry overnight. Consider the dual-mode Samsung players that could play both HD-DVD and BluRay, in an uneasy truce to allow customers to hedge their bets on the war. With a clear winner emerging from the format war, all of the effort goes out the door. On the bright side Samsung will fare better than the HD-DVD camp because the company itself hedged its bets.

There is going to be frustration among the early adopters who guessed wrong– but that’s the cost of doing business on the leading edge. Just ask the initial round of iPhone buyers after the price drop. Long term consumers are probably better off because standardization will increase sales of players by removing the cloud of uncertainty. More players will drive down costs, and increase availability of content. It may also cement Sony as the new hegemon unseating the reigning oligarchy of the DVD Forum, depending on how the licensing around patents and royalties for use of BluRay technology are structured.


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