For all the wonderful new products on display, CES 2008 will be better remembered for the one that failed to show. Christopher Dring reports?

SPOTLIGHT – A Blu Future

The International Consumer Electronics Show is all about the future, the next cool gadget, the next supercomputer, the next ridiculously large TV. Yet the headlines surrounding 2008’s show is not so much about the next up-and-coming revolution, but the moment HD DVD started to follow Betamax into the great format heaven in the sky.

Warner Brother’s decision to drop HD DVD support caused the kind of live drama us journalists love to report on. First Toshiba cancelled its planned conferences and meetings, then rumours circulated that Paramount and Universal were on the verge of pulling support, and every pointless comment from Toshiba, Sony and Microsoft was reported as headlining news. It was exciting stuff.

Sony has, quite rightly, opted not to blow the trumpets of victory just yet. Whereas Akiyo Ozaka, president of Toshiba America Consumer Products, insists the war “is not over”. Although this sounds more like defiant desperation from a captain pre-occupied with bailing water out of his sinking ship, than an actual statement of fact.

The Warner Brothers decision is massive for Blu-ray, it opens up 70 per cent of Hollywood to the format, with Warner handling distribution for the likes of New Line, HBO and BBC. Toshiba now has just Universal, Dreamworks and Paramount as supporters to its format, and neither of them have the Lord of the Rings factor.

Warner claimed it was the consumer’s decision in the end, with analysts pointing towards the Playstation 3 as the reason behind Blu-ray’s recent success. The Playstation 2 put DVD players in the homes of people unaware they even wanted it, and the Playstation 3 looks to do the same for Blu-ray, so the PS3’s success at the back end of 2007 may have fuelled Warner’s decision. Especially as many of the consoles came bundled with Blu-ray movies.

Back at the CES and even Microsoft was questioned on the development, which allowed them to re-iterate the possibility of a Blu-ray drive for the Xbox 360. Although Microsoft’s HD download service is a competitor to Blu-ray in its own right, and enjoying a solid start.

It may not be quite over just yet, but the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show will always be remembered as the moment the tide turned for Blu-ray. Regardless of whether or not it was the better format.

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