updated 04:30 pm EST, Fri January 4, 2008
Warner Blu-ray Exclusive
In a potentially major upset in the conflict between movie standards, Warner Brothers today said it would drop its support for the HD DVD format, switching all its future titles to the competing Blu-ray standard for HD versions. The move is prompted by an evident shift by movie buyers towards the Blu-ray format and is meant both to consolidate Warner's efforts and prevent users from having to choose between competing formats for the same title. The choice is a reversal but a necessary one in an industry where the field appears to be destroying itself, Warner says.
"Warner Bros. has produced in both high-definition formats in an effort to provide consumer choice, foster mainstream adoption and drive down hardware prices," says Warner chief Barry Meyer. "[But this] is a strategic decision focused on the long term and the most direct way to give consumers what they want. The window of opportunity for high-definition DVD could be missed if format confusion continues to linger."
HD DVD versions of movies will continued to be produced until May 2008, when Warner switches to producing only Blu-ray titles as well as lower-resolution DVD discs.
The decision could prove fatal to the primarily Toshiba-backed HD DVD format both for movie players and computers. As noted in previous leaks that have now been confirmed by the announcement, Warner's switch is expected to lead to 70 percent of all HD movies shipping only in Blu-ray, giving customers little incentive to buy either HD DVD movie readers or equivalent drives in computers. This is expected to have indirect repercussions for Microsoft, which has heavily endorsed HD DVD for both Windows PCs and through the Xbox 360's HD DVD add-on.
Sony is often considered the chief proponent of Blu-ray but has also received support from several large AV and computer firms for the standard, including Dell and Pioneer. Other firms such as Apple and HP have so far remained relatively neutral and have either declined to commit to a particular format in hardware so far (in Apple's case) or have supported both (such as HP).