The price of high-definition disc players is set to drop by up to 30 per cent this year as rivalry between the Blu-ray and HD-DVD camps sparks a land grab for early adopters of the technology.
Japanese electronics maker Toshiba, the developer of the HD-DVD format, says HD-DVD players account for 70 per cent of those sold in the PC market and that prices for its mid-range Satellite laptops with HD-DVD drives built into them would drop below the €1000 ($1960) mark later this year.
With 30 million laptops likely to be sold in Europe alone this year, according to analyst IDC, HD-DVD's "mainstream play for notebooks", as Toshiba describes it, has a big market to tap.
But if HD-DVD has a lead in the PC market, its arch-rival claims to have the consumer electronics market sewn up. There, HD-DVD is being outsold by Blu-ray players and movie discs, thanks largely to Sony's Playstation 3 video games console, which has a built-in Blu-ray drive.
Blu-ray Disc Association chief David Walstra said demand for high-definition TVs had "gone through the roof" and that 70 per cent of high-definition movie sales in Europe were Blu-ray. Around 1.3 million PS3 consoles had been sold in Europe.
"Blu-ray disc has a commanding position in Europe in terms of playback functionality," said Walstra.
Blu-ray disc sales in the US have passed the two million mark and this year Blu-ray accounts for 60 per cent of high-definition movie sales in the US, he added. HD-DVD claims 30 per cent of the HD movie market.
If the figures reveal anything, it's the contrasting strategies employed by the two high-definition camps, which differ in view over the importance of video games consoles to the high-definition market. Ken Graffeo, co-chairman of the European HD DVD Promotion Group, told an audience at consumer electronics show IFA in Berlin that Sony's strategy of driving Blu-ray adoption through its PS3 console was flawed.
"The high-def format is about standalone players, not games machines.
"And the truth is that the jury is still out on whether gamers actually will buy movies in favour of games." Graffeo pointed to the relatively low rate of sale of Blu-ray movies to PS3 buyers.
"The sale for PS3 seem to confirm it, one Blu-ray title for every two players," he said.
In contrast, the attachment rate for HD-DVD players was four movies to each device. While Blu-ray's backers claim the technology is superior, the price cutting that could spur adoption of high-definition technology overall was kicked off last week by the HD-DVD group.
Canadian electronics maker Venturer at IFA debuted a high-definition player which will sell for €299. Toshiba's own new HD-DVD will sell for less than €400. Microsoft, which offers a HD-DVD add-on for its Xbox 360 console, shaved €20 off the European price of the drive.
Both high-definition lobby groups brought a collection of movie industry executives to IFA to outline plans for the release of hundreds of movie titles on Blu-ray and HD-DVD in the coming months.
Paramount vice-president Chris Santo appeared briefly to explain the studio's surprise decision to drop Blu-ray support and back HD-DVD only for its high-definition releases.
Warner Home Video's Monica Juniel has a foot in both high-definition camps and said her company's tentative plan to create a dual-format disc that could play on a wide range of high-definition players was still in the works.
But perhaps the most promising high-definition development amid the marketing spin and claims and counterclaims of IFA was Samsung's launch of a dual-mode high-definition player that could play discs from both formats. The player, which supports interactive functions, will go on sale before Christmas.
* Toshiba claims dominance in the PC market for its HD-DVD drives, but Blu-ray is outselling its rival in standalone players and movie sales.
* HD-DVD backers have initiated price cuts that for the first time bring the cost of high-definition players below the €300 mark.
* Samsung and LG both now have dual-mode players in the market which, if popular, could render the high-definition arguments redundant for consumers.
* Hundreds of Blu-ray and HD-DVD movie titles will debut in time for Christmas, including the popular Harry Potter and Spiderman franchises.