Toshiba denies rumors; HD DVD not dead yet

Despite reports to the contrary spreading like wildfire around blogs and mainstream news sources Monday, Toshiba said it has not made any decision to halt production of HD DVD players, while acknowledging it is evaluating its strategy moving forward.

The hubbub over HD DVD's demise began on Friday, when a brief article published in Hollywood Reporter cited an anonymous source claiming that Toshiba was making plans to exit the HD DVD business, spelling an end to the format that has been locked in a bitter war with Sony's Blu-ray format. Reuters spread the story around the world due to its syndication agreement with the Hollywood paper.

The initial report was authored by Thomas K. Arnold from HomeMediaMagazine.com, an unabashedly pro-Blu-ray outlet that has published editorials from Arnold entitled, "A Plea for a Unified Blu Future" and "HD DVD Backers Should Call It a Day." Japanese public broadcaster NHK repeated the speculation over the weekend, further fueling the fire.

But Toshiba refused to comment on the reports when they cropped up Friday, telling BetaNews it "does not comment on rumor and speculation." The company then issued a statement over the weekend saying it "has not made any announcement or decision" to abandon HD DVD.

Such speculation is nothing new for the format. In early January, the Financial Times reported that Paramount would leave the HD DVD camp to join Blu-ray. Hollywood paper Variety then claimed Universal Studios would do the same. Both reports were proven to be false.

A Toshiba spokesperson did acknowledge, however, that "We are currently assessing our business strategies, but nothing has been decided at the moment." Toshiba says it has been evaluating the situation ever since Warner Bros. announced on the eve of CES 2008 that it would stop producing movies in the HD DVD format by June. Still, nothing has been decided thus far, the company asserts.

Sources inside the HD DVD Promotional Group tell BetaNews that Toshiba has been looking closely at sales figures and examining the format's future from a business perspective for the past month. That situation was impacted last week when Wal-Mart announced it would remove HD DVD products from store shelves by June.

The lack of strong public support for HD DVD by Toshiba could be a bad sign for the millions of consumers who have taken advantage of low price points to upgrade to the high-definition format. Although it continues to support HD DVD for the time being, the result of its business assessment could lead Toshiba to call it quits.

Whatever it decides, Toshiba is unlikely to cut and run without some sort of transitional plan. With over one million customers and two Hollywood studios still exclusively backing HD DVD, the company would face numerous lawsuits from individuals and companies alike. Toshiba will also have to deal with how to deplete existing stock, which could mean great deals for those who don't mind having both HD DVD and Blu-ray players in their living room.

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