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Inauspicious start for HD-DVD

Like it or not, a new format war is soon to be upon us as the HD-DVD and Blu-Ray camps duel it out for our hearts, minds, and above all wallets, in the next generation DVD format battle.

The Blu-ray Disc Association has just announced that the specification for its next generation DVD format is complete and that the organisation is ready to begin licensing the technology, whilst Toshiba, the main driver behind HD-DVD, has had the grand unveiling of its technology at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Unfortunately for Toshiba, it was an inauspicious start for the new format, as The Associated Press reported:

It was supposed to be the grand unveiling of a new generation in home entertainment when Kevin Collins of Microsoft Corp. popped an HD DVD disc into a Toshiba production model and hit "play." Nothing happened.

Red-faces all round, but, of course, this is just one failed demonstration. Windows 98 spectacularly crashed on Bill Gates whilst demonstrating the new operating system to a packed hall at Comdex, and the software giant still went on to ship millions of copies worldwide.

Nonetheless, HD-DVD faces a tough task in overhauling the rival Blu-ray camp, spearheaded by Sony. Blu-ray discs promise to have a greater storage capacity, which HD-DVD counters by saying that the manufacture of its discs is easier and, therefore, cheaper.

HD-DVD does also have the advantage of being first to market, if only by a few months: Toshiba has announced its first HD-DVD player will be available in March for $499. So far, in the plethora of announcements from CES, the first Blu-ray player is scheduled to be available from Samsung in April, whilst Pioneer says it will also have a Blu-ray player available in June but for a hefty $1600.

Whilst the technology companies fight it out on the pitch, consumers are left watching from the stands. Leading retailers have already expressed their displeasure over the ruckus, and the stated their very plausible fear, that potential buyers will simply keep their wallets firmly closed until one side emerges victorious.

The risk for rival camps is that, depending on how long this takes, any victory could be entirely pyrrhic in nature. As the PC continues to make strides into our living room, turning to buying high definition movies over the Internet may prove to be a safer bet.