Blu-ray Trumps HD DVD: The Af*****th Wed Feb 20, 2008 11:11AM EST See Comments (168) Want a refund from Toshiba now that it's pulled the plug on its own format? Good luck. Also: HD DVD prices plummet, Universal and Amazon go Blu-ray, and more. Toshiba nixes refunds: So, HD DVD early adopters - think you deserve a refund now that Toshiba has killed the format? Think again. Valleywag reports that the company (and big-time HD DVD backer) won't be accepting refund requests (although it will continue to support existing HD DVD players). Here's the quote: "There is nothing wrong with the products so we aren't accepting returns from customers ... [Customers] understood that there were two competing formats and understood that one of them would probably prevail ..." Good point, actually. In my case, I bought the Xbox 360 HD DVD drive knowing full well that I was taking a gamble. I lost. End of story. Universal goes Blu-ray: Not a shock, but Universal went ahead and made it official: The studio (the only one to exclusively support HD DVD from the beginning) announced that it will start churning out Blu-ray versions of its new releases and catalog titles. No word on how long it will continue to press HD DVD discs. The move leaves Paramount and Dreamworks as the final HD DVD-only studios. Neither movie house has made any official announcements, but expect that to change shortly. Onkyo drops HD DVD: Confirming pretty much a foregone conclusion, Engadget HD reports that Onkyo, one of the few manufacturers besides Toshiba to make HD DVD players, has followed suit and dropped the format. LG stays with HD DVD: Or at least with dual-format Blu-ray/HD DVD decks, according to High-Def Digest. The manufacturer, which was the first to release a Blu-ray/HD DVD combo player, said that "at this present moment in time, it is necessary to provide a player which supports both formats and therefore create simplicity and convenience for the existing HD DVD consumer." Very true, although it's not clear whether LG will produce more combo players, or will simply continue to support its existing players (its latest, the BH200, arrived in stores late last year). Amazon hearts Blu-ray: The giant online retailer just went the way of Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Netflix, announcing that it will now "more prominently promote Blu-ray hardware and software products on its Web site." Amazon will continue to sell HD DVD products, however. Indeed, I'm waiting for a mega HD DVD fire sale in the wake of the 50 percent discount offer that began last week. HD DVD prices plummet: Sharp-eyed readers at Engadget HD found Toshiba's HD-A3 HD DVD player on sale at Circuit City for $99, including 7 free movies. Of course, it's just the beginning of sharp price cuts across the board for HD DVD. Taking a quick look at eBay, I found HD DVD players going for well under $100, with the Xbox 360 HD DVD add-on selling for about $50 Last HD DVD-Only Studio Goes Blu-Ray Thu Feb 21, 2008 8:04AM EST See Comments (3) As expected, Paramount—the final big movie studio to exclusively support the defeated HD DVD format—has jumped to Blu-ray. That said, several new HD DVD titles are still on tap for the coming months. Paramount, the studio that released such blockbusters as "Transformers" and the "Mission: Impossible" movies, told the Hollywood Reporter (via High-Def Digest) that it will "look to (begin) releasing our titles on Blu-ray" and that "we will monitor consumer adoption and determine our release plan accordingly." Vague words, although Reuters notes that both Paramount and newly-Blu Universal will probably begin cranking out Blu-ray titles by "late spring or early summer." Paramount's move represents quite a reversal for both the studio and the HD DVD format itself. The movie house initially supported both Blu-ray and HD DVD; last August, however, Paramount and its subsidiary, Dreamworks, surprised the industry by jumping to HD DVD exclusively, a maneuver that evened up the format war and dealt a major blow to the Blu-ray camp. But in January, Blu-ray regained the lead by wooing format-neutral studio Warner Brothers, and the rest is history. While all the big movie studios are now aligned with Blu-ray, that doesn't mean that there aren't any HD DVD titles left in the pipe. Indeed, Warners has confirmed that it will continue pressing HD DVD movies through May, and a quick look at the HD DVD release schedule shows upcoming titles such as "Beowolf," "The Assassination of Jesse James," and "The Brave One" this month, "Into the Wild," "No Reservations," "Michael Clayton," "Bee Movie," and "In the Valley of Elah" in March, and "I Am Legend" in April. Not exactly an avalanche of movies, mind you, but hey—for those of us stuck with HD DVD players, it's something. With HD DVD Dead, Will Blu-ray Prices Begin to Fall? Tue Feb 19, 2008 11:38AM EST See Comments (74) With HD DVD officially dead (RIP February 19, 2008), cynics are beginning to wonder whether we're in for a long road of inflated Blu-ray equipment prices. After all, Blu-ray began its life as the expensive high-def format and it remains so today, defying all expectations that consumers would naturally prefer the budget alternative format. But is it possible that Blu-ray prices might actually start to fall soon? The conventional wisdom holds that Blu-ray no longer faces competition from HD DVD, so it will be better able to resist price pressure. Well, let's look at the facts: Months of HD DVD fire sales basically did nothing to trim Blu-ray prices so far. If the Blu-ray camp had been worried about being seen as too expensive, those price cuts should already have happened. And besides, Blu-ray has never really competed with HD DVD. Oh, sure, the two formats have struggled for dominance, but the real enemy has always been regular, standard-definition DVD. Executives have already been aiming their battle at the DVD world, where players can be had as cheaply as $30, so if price competition is really on Blu-ray developers' minds, we're going to have to see some far bigger cuts, far faster than we have before. But most importantly by far, inter-format competition has historically been of little importance in price wars of the past. The original CD and DVD players cost thousands of dollars, but prices of both plummeted quickly as the technology to make them improved and overall sales have gone upward, even in the absence of a competing format. Without the distraction of HD DVD nibbling at its side, Blu-ray manufacturers should finally be able to focus on improving quality and decreasing prices instead of out-marketing and out-spending the competition on exclusive deals. As well, with the format war over, more companies should now enter the market to produce Blu-ray gear and more consumers should sign up to buy said gear, further helping to depress prices as 2008 wears on. The upshot is that, paradoxically, getting HD DVD out of the market could actually spur more innovation, increase production (as consumers finally get off the fence), and finally start pressuring down prices. I could be wrong. This is a strange case where egos are involved, and Sony is so beat up by format wars of the past that it may be itching for a payoff this time around. Still, I'm still expecting big price cuts on Blu-ray for holiday 2008.