Does the death of HD DVD aid Microsoft's long term ambition?
HD DVD bid its farewell earlier this morning at a Tokyo press conference where Toshiba officially discontinued its HD DVD businesses.
Though Toshiba has come forward and made clear its stance on the now concluded format war, Microsoft, another key backer of HD DVD has so far kept fairly quiet.
The only statement to come from Microsoft thus far relates to its Xbox 360 console and reads:
"We do not believe the recent reports about HD DVD will have any material impact on the Xbox 360 platform or our position in the marketplace."
"As we've long stated, we believe it is games that sell consoles and Xbox 360 continues to have the largest next-gen games library with the most exclusives and best selling games in the industry."
"HD DVD is one of the several ways we offer a high definition experience to consumers and we will continue to give consumers the choice to enjoy digital distribution of high definition movies and TV shows directly to their living room along with playback of the DVD movies they already own."
Having read the statement, it appears that Microsoft isn't too fussed about HD DVD's painful death - or, at least, is making light of it. In fact, the company actually states that games sell consoles and HD DVD's demise won't have any material impact on the Xbox 360 console.
Furthermore, the company reiterates its commitment to give consumers high definition movies. Hold on, if HD DVD is dead and buried and Blu-ray isn't available on the Xbox 360, what exactly does Microsoft mean? The answer is simple, users can still get their high definition material from Microsoft's digital distribution service, Xbox Live Marketplace.
Towards the end of 2007, movie director Michael Bay (best known for Transformers) publicly stated:
"What you don't understand is corporate politics. Microsoft wants both formats to fail so they can be heroes and make the world move to digital downloads. That is the dirty secret no one is talking about. That is why Microsoft is handing out $100 million dollar checks to studios just embrace the HD DVD and not the leading, and superior, Blu Ray. They want confusion in the market until they perfect the digital downloads. Time will tell and you will see the truth."
Mr Bay has a tendency to ramble quite often on his public blog and the statement therefore may have been largely overlooked at the time. As he suggested, however, has time now revealed the truth?
Microsoft has over the years made its plans for digital distribution well known. While HD DVD and Blu-ray battled one another to sign up various movie studios, Microsoft has been quietly but effectively signing up a list of studios who now distribute content via Xbox Live Marketplace.
Let's take a look at some of these studios. Paramount, which stood firmly in the HD DVD camp, offers its movie library over Xbox Live. Warner Bros, from the Blu-ray camp, also offers its library on Xbox Live. It would seem that Microsoft already has the best of both worlds. Paramount, Warner Bros, Lionsgate, MGM and Walt Disney are just a few of the studios already supporting Microsoft's digital distribution service and others are signing up rapidly.
Though Microsoft hasn't made its ambitions known in writing - face it, the company isn't going to say "thank God the war is over, now let us distribute digitally" - it's clear to see where Microsoft's future lies and it isn't an optical storage medium, it's digital.