It was good news and bad news for high-def at this year's DisplaySearch Flat Panel Display Conference, with Blu-ray and HD DVD hardware sales continuing to rise but no winner likely to emerge in 2007.
Strong sales reported at the show found that stand-alone high-def DVD players on both formats in January this year represented eight percent of the conventional DVD player market -- almost twice high-def's share during the fourth quarter of 2006.
Also in January of this year, PlayStation 3 sales for the month on a dollar basis surpassed those of standard-definition DVD players.
The numbers were reported by Ross young, DisplaySearch founder and president.
However, the view was hardly clear for any quick end to the high-def war. Though it was widely reported last month that Blu-ray has been enjoying a more than 2-to-1 advantage over HD DVD in weekly disc sales since the beginning of January, even the recent Blu-ray surge left few in attendance willing to concede defeat for either format.
"Some studio chiefs have claimed to have won, but quite honestly the war continues," said conference speaker Vito Mandato, an executive consultant to Paramount Home Entertainment.
Mandato went on to forecast that the number of high-def hardware units in homes by the end of 2007 will be a draw between the two competing formats.
On the HD DVD side, estimates are for 1.2 million stand-alone players and 500,000 Xbox 360 add-on drives. And for Blu-ray, Mandato is counting only 1.2 million of the 5.5 million PS3 units projected to be sold during the year, plus 500,000 stand-alone players, because his analysis suggests that just 22 percent of PS3 households purchase movies regularly.
Mandato's comments come in the wake of highly-controversial pronouncements made by Sony and some other Blu-ray-backing studios that the format war is already "game over," with the successful PS3 launch and Blu-ray's current disc sales lead the final nail in HD DVD's coffin.
However, Mandato did sound an encouraging note for Blu-ray, indicating that the format's broader software support could finally tip the scales in its favor.
"For the Blu-ray opportunities with blockbuster movie releases over the next three or four months, the first of those will be 'Casino Royale,' and we have already begun to see the [marketing] campaign," said Mandato. "In the magazine ad, there is a separate fractional page that calls out specifically that it is available exclusively on Blu-ray. If that hard-hitting messaging starts to appear consistently in all of the exclusive hit titles exclusive to Blu-ray, that will start to move the needle."
The DisplaySearch 2007 Conference was held March 5-8 in San Diego, California.