Just two days before Bill Gates' Consumer Electronics Show keynote, Microsoft's chosen next-generation video format suffered a major setback. Late Friday, movie and television studio Warner Bros. announced that it is discontinuing its support of the HD DVD format, and will release its high-definition home-video offerings solely on Blu-ray Disc beginning this coming May. Currently, the company, which controls nearly 18 to 20 percent of the US home-video market, supports both Blu-ray and HD DVD.
"Warner Bros.' move to exclusively release in the Blu-ray Disc format is a strategic decision focused on the long term," said Barry Meyer, Warner Bros.' chairman and CEO, in a statement. "The window of opportunity for high-definition DVD could be missed if format confusion continues to linger. We believe that exclusively distributing in Blu-ray will further the potential for mass-market success and ultimately benefit retailers, producers, and most importantly, consumers."
Warner Bros. joins a host of other movie studios--including the Walt Disney Company, 20th Century Fox, and Lionsgate--who are backing the Blu-ray format. More importantly for gamers, Blu-ray was created by Sony, which has included an internal Blu-ray Disc drive as part of all four PlayStation 3 models released since November 2006. Besides movie studios Universal and Paramount, HD DVD is backed by Microsoft, which released an external HD DVD drive for the Xbox 360 in November 2006. It recently denied rumors that it is working on a version of the Xbox 360 that would have an internal HD DVD drive.
Toshiba, which led development of HD DVD at the same time it was partnering with Sony to create the PS3's cell processor, was openly shocked by today's events. "Toshiba is quite surprised by Warner Bros.' decision to abandon HD DVD in favor of Blu-ray, despite the fact that there are various contracts in place between our companies concerning the support of HD DVD," the company said in a terse statement. "We were particularly disappointed that this decision was made in spite of the significant momentum HD DVD has gained in the US market as well as other regions in 2007. HD DVD players and PCs have outsold Blu-ray in the US market in 2007."