Toshiba's 2008 product launch - don't mention the war

The timing couldn't have been much more awkward for Toshiba, writes Andrew Everard - its major product launch for Spring 2008, with all its key dealers plus the press invited, and just as it starts, HQ back in Japan goes and announces it's pulling out of HD DVD.

It made for a slightly uneasy atmosphere at the event, but the company took the bull by the horns - well, sort of - with a question and answer session before the main product announcements, after which, we were told, no more questions were to be asked of Toshiba staff about the subject. Just like it never happened...

Trouble is, the few awkward questions asked - what were the company's plans for HD DVD drives in its computers, had it been selling HD DVD players at a loss - went unanswered, and there were rather too many oblique references from those same Toshiba staff we weren't meant to question during the day.

For example, we were shown the company's new upscaling DVD players - 'our main focus since Tuesday...' - and while it was clear every effort had been made to wipe HD DVD off the agenda, a few traces remained.

In the TV demonstration room, a solitary HD DVD machine remained (to the left of the TV), feeding a couple of large-screen displays, and in the press-pack an orphan file folder contains two lonely-looking pictures of the EP30 and EP35.

That's not to say there wasn't plenty to see, and we'll be bringing you a full report once the Bristol Sound & Vision show is out of the way.

And there were also some interesting future technology glimpses, such as a demonstration of a new upscaling system (seen left in a split-screen demonstration). It's destined to be built into the company's TVs and using a CELL processor, aimed at bringing standard definition broadcasts up to something approaching HD quality.

The company also showed some cute small-screen sets, available in a choice of black and white and ideal for the bedroom, and some of the colour options it may offer on its TVs in the future.

Despite assuring us that 'black is the new black' for its forthcoming Regza CV, XV and ZF TV line-ups, it showed a silver-framed screen - 'because customers are asking for it' and a carbon-fibre finish version apparently popular with Turkish Toshiba buyers.

And finally, in a spot of theatricality, a pair of doors guarded by a pair of Toshiba bouncers was opened to reveal the company's new ultra-thin screen concept, specially brought in from Japan.

Except it was actually an ultra-thin bezel, designed to reduce the area of plastic around the display panel, not a much slimmer screen, and it was only a mock-up so far.

Oh well - there were plenty of interesting, and very competitively-priced, new products to see, of which more early next week, and at least we didn't mention the war.

Well we did once, but we think we got away with it...

Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.