Weekly News Roundup (17 February 2008)

I’ve never completely trusted February. How can you trust a month that isn’t 30 or 31 days, and not only that, seems to change length every couple of years as well. February is well shifty, I wouldn’t trust it to give me the time of the day, let alone the day of the month. This issue of the roundup is a bit short of news, just like February is short of days. Don’t blame me, blame February (hey, that’s not a bad slogan).

In copyright news, the “War on Torrents” has been declared a success by the outgoing Bush administration. In a time when terrorism, the economy, the environment and many other issues are causing concern, it’s nice to see where the White House’s priorities are. The “War on Canada” continues, with a US Group calling Canada a top copyright violator. Canada is still deciding on whether to adopt tougher copyright laws, so the scare campaign is not surprising. After all, the same tactic has been applied time and time again in other countries, including Australia. Here, we’ve been forced to adopt the same harsh laws as part of our free trade agreement with the US – no DMCA, no trade, is apparently the message the Bush administration is sending out on behalf of the MPAA.

But this week really has been about HD news, and actually, mainly bad news for HD DVD. As I type this, the vulture and their fanboy riders are circling, as rumours suggest Toshiba will call it quits. It’s probably the right decision *if* Toshiba believes they can’t win or sustain the format war, and I hope they bring their expertise in producing the XA2/XE1 to bring a cheaper, new Blu-ray/dual format Profile 2.0 player, that’s also region-free. One can still dream, right? As someone who is format neutral, it’s sad to see HD DVD go along with cheap hardware prices and region-free discs, if the rumours are true. But on the other hand, being neutral was all about avoiding and mitigating the potential risks of a format dying, while being able to enjoy all available HD movies from the get go. I have a Toshiba HD-XE1 player, the best DVD upscaler you can buy for under $1,200 (and I got it for $500) and will be my main DVD player and HD DVD player to service the 30 HD DVD movies that I currently own (and I will add more titles to my collection if there are clearance sales and such). My Xbox 360 add-on drive will now become an external drive for my (as yet un-purchased) new computer for testing HD stuff. My PS3 remains my main Blu-ray player until something better comes along (Profile 2.0, bitstreaming/decoding for all audio formats, fast loading and response like the PS3). All bases covered, as they say. Anyway, the whole week started on a sour note for HD DVD when Netflix decided to go Blu-ray exclusive. This was followed by Best Buy deciding to recommend Blu-ray over HD DVD, while still stocking both types of players and movies. The biggest blow came when, previously HD DVD exclusive Wal-Mart, went Blu-ray exclusive as well. Then the rumour surfaced that Toshiba was going to drop HD DVD, and this rumour, plus possibly some fact behind it, is now what’s causing the media circus. Monday is supposed to be the day Toshiba officially announces their decision, and the official end of the format war, and I will cover whatever happens in more detail in a blog entry. In between all of this HD DVD bad news, there was one bit of “good” news for HD DVD in that Warner has not ruled out still providing movies on HD DVD after the end of May. Probably a bit pointless now.

In gaming news, I’ve not yet had the time to go over the January NPD figures for game sales (next week, I promise). Apparently, the PS3 beat the Xbox 360 for the first time in monthly sales figures, although it was largely a quiet month in terms of game console sales compared to the feverish December period. Both the Wii and 360 sold considerably less units as compared previously, and both Nintendo and Microsoft has blamed it on stock shortages after unexpected demand in December forced them to sell January stock ahead of time. This corresponds with my experiences during December, when store after store I visit would not have any Wii or 360 stock, while the only game console available was the PS3. But hardware stock issues should not affect software sales, and the 360 has another good month with 4 titles in the top 10, including the number one item (Call of Duty 4). The Wii also did well 3 titles, while the PS3 only had 1 item (Call of Duty 4 again) at 8th, the remaining two spots belonging to the Nintendo DS. More details in a blog entry next week.

And so that’s it for this week. The next few days will prove interesting for HD enthusiasts. And by HD, I mean both Blu-ray and HD DVD. People often forget that Blu-ray is HD (High Definition) as well. HD DVD is a brand just like Blu-ray, while HD is just a description of a certain type of video, like SD being used to describe DVDs.


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