HD-DVD: Failure To Launch?

Posted Tue Mar 7, 2006 at 07:55 AM PST by
Space Shuttle Launch There are only weeks to go before the announced launch of the first HD-DVD players and titles on March 28, but looming signs indicate the format's big blast-off may not depart as originally scheduled.

Toshiba's first two HD-DVD players are expected on that day, as well as a number of titles from Warner, but despite the press releases to the contrary, there's been little to no retailer confirmation of either so far. There are also a grand total of zero details about the HD-DVD titles up on WHV's studio retailer site. (By comparison, in-depth details of most standard DVD releases are announced to retailers on a studio site months in advance). And although Toshiba's nationwide HD-DVD promotional tour continues this week, we're told by those who have seen it that the only thing Toshiba reps have to show is a demo disc of movie trailers -- no final product HD-DVD software is ready yet.

A visit today to Amazon's recently-launched HD-DVD micro-store didn't offer much hope, either. The site simply lists the same player and title info doled out weeks ago via the press releases, and Amazon isn't even taking preorders for the discs -- all that's posted is a sign-up notice to receive email alerts when a title is "officially announced."

A Video Business report this past week found that retailers are also frustrated by the lack of information from player manufacturers and studios, and the little info that is provided is often contradictory.

"We're getting different stories," one unnamed entertainment specialist told VB. "We had two vendors within two hours tell us two different things about the availability of [high-def products]. What we've heard is slim."

Here's a revolutionary idea -- how about the electronics makers and studios wait until they have players and discs finalized, fully tested and ready to ship, and then announce specs and release dates? Sigh. In the meantime, we'll be waiting with great anticipation, but the clock is ticking -- with Blu-Ray's launched planned for early May, if the HD-DVD camp doesn't hurry up, they may not have to bother at all.