NEW YORK - The HD DVD is now the Highly Dead DVD. Toshiba Corp., creator of the HD DVD, dropped out of the battle Tuesday over the next generation of movie-disc technology and conceded to Sony's rival Blu-ray format.
It was the biggest battle between two video formats since Betamax lost out to VHS in the 1980s.
In the long run, the end of the latest format war is expected to be good for consumers, who will no longer have to agonize over which technology to choose for high-definition movies, and won't have to go to the trouble and expense of buying two players.
But in the short term, Toshiba's defeat not only leaves 1 million HD DVD customers worldwide with dead-end hardware, but also ends a rivalry that kept down prices for players and pushed the Blu-ray group to match the features available on HD DVD players.
Analysts say people interested in getting a Blu-ray player would do well to wait. For one thing, it will take 12 to 18 months for Blu-ray players to become as cheap and full-featured as HD DVD players, which have been selling for just over $100, according to ABI Research.
Many people who did buy HD DVD players did so recently. Stephen Brown, a Huntington Beach, Calif., technology manager who bought an HD DVD player in November, doesn't regret it, even though his wife now calls him "Betamax Brown."
"Just the fact that I could go out and spend $119 or $120 and have a really nice player, that was a no-brainer at that point," he said Tuesday.
Brown said he will probably look at getting a Blu-ray player in a year or so, when the price comes down to around $150 from the current $400 and various features become standard.
HD DVD and Blu-ray discs deliver crisp, clear pictures and sound, a perfect match for the high-definition TVs Americans have been rushing to buy for the past two years. But HD DVD players are also able to connect to the Internet to download trailers and other bonus content for discs, and can have a director or actor provide commentary in a small window while the movie plays.
The studios that supported HD DVD took advantage of these features in innovative if not always very useful ways: Viewers of Universal Studios' "Evan Almighty" HD DVD could shop for ecologically friendly items like recycled toilet paper through their player.
Blu-ray players capable of showing picture-in-picture - a feature called "Bonus View" - have only just started to appear.