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The Looking Glass War – Sony Versus Toshiba

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Blu-ray versus HD DVD, liquid crystal versus plasma, and how manufacturers want us to see in the future.

Blu-ray versus HD DVD, liquid crystal versus plasma
Blu-ray versus HD DVD

For three years, a pair of consortiums has tried to develop a new generation of DVD media. Based on blue lasers, the new media would have to be able to store massive amounts of data, enough to deliver the sort of high-definition visual content that makes George Lucas grin.

Sony and Toshiba, the lead corporations in the Blu-ray versus HD DVD standards fight, and their associated allies, need to bring this war to a close. Electronics manufacturers on both sides have the capability to deliver either technology to market by the fourth quarter of this year.

But no one wants to revisit the VHS-Betamax wars that hampered VCR adoption in the 1980s. Launching DVD players based on competing standards could lead to a situation no one wants: consumers waiting on the sidelines for a single standard while thousands of products sit on shelves unbought.

And despite signs that Sony had finally pushed Blu-ray to victory, and Toshiba would agree to supply playback and rights management software for blu-ray devices, Toshiba seems to have dug in its heels and screamed its defiance.

No standard for blue laser DVD media storage today, then, and we don’t seem to be getting one tomorrow either.

Whichever standard emerges, consumers will need a TV capable of high-definition (HD) display. LCD and plasma screens offer consumers flat-screen dimensions of 40 inch diagonal measurements and up.

Likewise, pricing for those screens has stayed up, and a downward pricing trend will have to happen to get more consumer adoption.

Watch The Screen

42 inch plasma HD screens have a price of around $4,000 USD, while a similar LCD 42 inch screen would go for about $5,000 USD, according to analysts referenced by Reuters. And a less advanced 42 inch plasma TV could go for around $2,000.

That means LCD makers have to add next-generation production lines faster in order to compete on price. Samsung is working on these now, while LG.Philips has seventh generation lines in production.

Other manufacturers will follow suit, and they will have to if they hope to replace cathode ray sets with LCD or plasma options. Right now, that ancient cathode ray technology accounts for around 90 percent of global TV sales, according to Lehman Brothers.

It has been suggested that manufacturers will sacrifice profit margin for market penetration. Without a HDTV screen in the home, consumers won’t be motivated to pickup blue laser DVD players, or more importantly, blue laser DVD content.

This should mean a pricing battle that brings retail costs in line with what consumers would comfortably pay for a cathode ray set. DVD media will be the factor that drives profits for companies like Sony, as people won’t be buying a new HDTV every year.

The electronics manufacturers want you to see the future in glorious high definition, but it may take two or three years to finally get a lot of consumers there.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.

The Looking Glass War – Sony Versus Toshiba
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