NEWS: No, wait... HD DVD is winning (says HD DVD PR campaign)!

If you're after the latest on HD DVD and an overview of the 'format war' as it now stands, then who better to ask than the people in power at Toshiba, Microsoft and Universal, right? Well, sort of... Joe Cox went to find out what they had to say.

As long as you're not expecting the most balanced of opinions, and accept that there might be a touch of spin to the overall outlook, a 'workshop' with some of the key movers and shakers in the world of HD DVD is a good chance to get an update on the state of play.

As tends to be the case, these things start rather tamely. Ken Graffeo, executive vice president of Universal Home Entertainment, gave an overview of why he, unsurprisingly, thinks HD DVD is the leading format. This was interspliced with demo clips from HD DVD discs such as Children of Men and The Matrix.

As we watch the demonstration, I'm certainly glad I know how good HD DVD content can look - watching a 42in TV in a large, bright room would do little to convince any doubters in this audience. If it's one thing that's generally a waste of time at events such as this, it's demonstrations of kit in entirely unsuitable conditions.

Still, watching Toshiba's deputy general manager of HD DVD, Olivier Van Wynendaele, flick through the interactive menu systems on Children of Men certainly showed the HD DVD system in a good light.

It's clear that these interactive features remain one of the key factors that the HD DVD camp is relying on. The 'U-Control' feature allows for picture-in-picture viewing of extras while the main film rolls on in the background, or you can add-in commentaries as you watch – all very smart.

Also being given the big push is HD DVD's Internet connectivity. Using the Ethernet connection on the back, HD DVD will look to get people interacting online about 'the HD DVD experience'.

Blood Diamond is set to be the first release that offers viewers the chance to go online and leave immediate feedback and comment. Graffeo seemed convinced Blu-ray players wouldn't be able to offer this kind of interaction for at least a couple of years.

Unsurprisingly, the HD DVD group will be using its muscle in the computer world to further the adoption of its HD format. Toshiba says it will only put HD DVD drives, not DVD drives, in its computers and laptops from 2008. The mass manufacture of these drives should help to lower prices, too.

And it's of course price that our wise men believe will be the key factor in determining a winner in the ongoing format war. This is certainly where HD DVD has the upper hand at the moment.

Pointing to evidence in the US - where after cutting the price of Toshiba's 2nd generation HD DVD deck to $299, it sold 60,000 units in one month (May) - Graffeo believes once a critical mass of sales is reached, prices will tumble and consumers will come aboard.

As well as the computer industry, the imminent involvement of manufacturers from Asia - Graffeo pointed to the likes of Shinco and Onkyo for hardware releases later this year - should all help to trigger lower prices.

But it's been far from all plain-sailing for HD DVD in recent months. The announcement by Blockbuster regarding the stocking of Blu-ray over HD-DVD discs in the USA could be seen as worrying, but our hosts naturally remained bullish.

Graffeo insists the rental business accounts for less than 1% of HD DVD income, and regardless, Blockbuster would be retaining HD DVD discs online - the key growth area.

So, what next? Well, aside from the new dedicated players, there's the Samsung combo player - which will become the first multi-format player to fully support HD DVD features - and an updated LG combo player in the pipeline, too.

Soon to follow will be HD DVD recorders - already available in Japan - and further firmware upgrades for existing players in order to enhance functionality. As for an end to the format war... chance would be a fine thing.

Technorati Tags: DVD, HD, HD DVD, Microsoft, news, Toshiba, TV, Universal

Joe Cox
Content Director

Joe is Content Director for T3 and What Hi-Fi?, having previously been the Global Editor-in-Chief of What Hi-Fi?. He has worked on What Hi-Fi? across the print magazine and website for more than 15 years, writing news, reviews and features on everything from turntables to TVs, headphones to hi-fi separates. He has covered product launch events across the world, from Apple to Technics, Sony and Samsung; reported from CES, the Bristol Show, and Munich High End for many years; and written for sites such as the BBC, Stuff, and the Guardian. In his spare time, he enjoys expanding his vinyl collection and cycling (not at the same time).