by Gregory Paul Johnson, Director of the Consumer Defense Resource Group

On February 15, it was reported by Reuters that Wal-Mart decided on exclusively selling products using the Blu-Ray media standard instead of the HD DVD format. In the news stories reporting Wal-Mart’s decision, there was no mention of Toshiba stopping development of HD DVD.

On February 16, it was reported by Reuters that Toshiba will no longer pursue the HD DVD format, making Blu-ray technology the standard high capacity DVD format.

Did Wal-Mart have previous knowledge that Toshiba would stop pursuing development of HD DVD? Or, was Toshiba’s decision based on Wal-Mart dropping their products. It seems from reading the reports about these two events, that the Wal-Mart action resulted in Toshiba’s decision.

Wal-Mart was joined by other retailers such as Target, Best Buy, Blockbuster, and Netflix. With so many large retailers making decisions about product technologies, it leaves little say for consumers, manufacturers, or the researchers in development labs who might be able to choose the better standard. The demise of HD DVD is similar that of Betamax video tapes.

Consumers who have invested significantly in the HD DVD standard are now stuck wondering what kind of support they will get in the future. With any technology, consumers can anticipate at least a few years of technical support. However, the longer-term investment in media is what concerns those who have replaced their standard DVDs with the HD DVD media. Since standard DVDs enjoyed many years of industry acceptance, it’s unlikely that future players won’t be backward compatible to that standard. Since the support of HD DVD was short-lived, it’s likely that a library of HD DVDs will not be playable on future equipment. Consumers are accustom to seeing change in the technology industry. However, consumers are not accustom to standards being dropped so quickly. It could be considered that Toshiba and other retailers have mislead consumers into believing that there would be a future for the HD DVD media.

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