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HD Format Wars: Why Toshiba's Loss ≠ Sony's Win

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Sony's Blu-ray high definition video disc won a contentious, expensive, and possibly over-hyped video format war reminiscent of the VHS v. Beta battles of yore.

The "battle" for dominance of the next-generation DVD market was determined over past few weeks as major studios and big box retailers sided with Sony's Blu-ray, essentially shutting Toshiba's HD-DVD format out of the market.

But who really wins here?

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The studios and retailers manage to force consumers to go Blu-ray but realistically, Blu-ray may not stand to win much in the long run.

Digital downloads and streaming HD-on-demand broadcast will likely render even the Blu-ray an unnecessary component. Most HD video players to date were sold as parts of game consoles. Moreover, while PlayStation 3 owners account for nearly two-thirds of the the Blu-ray players, more than half of PS3 owners are not aware that the unit contains a blu-ray player. Toshiba's HD-DVD player was sold as a $200 add-on to Microsoft's Xbox 360.

But cable and satellite television providers are promising to increase the availability of HD and on-demand HD programming and with a consistent high-speed Internet connection, it's possible to legally stream HD video via Hulu, DailyMotion and Vimeo, you can also find high quality content on the down-low via torrent search engines or here-today sites like quicksilverscreen. OK, so these can be bandwidth hogs but when CDs came out did you ever think you'd just as well be downloading the digital content online? Set-top boxes in the $2-300 range include Vudu and AppleTV.

Don't bury Blu-ray just yet but definitely don't hurry out to buy one until prices come down to the $100 range. While Blu-ray players still hover in the $300-400 range, you can get upconverting DVD players which play at near-HD quality for under $100.

If you do have a collection of HD-DVDs and want to convert to blu-ray, check out this Wired how-to.

AP Photo/Katsumi Kasahara

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