Microsoft announces HD DVD on Xbox 360

When Sony announced that they would be including a Blu-ray drive in the new Playstation 3, many analysts expected that Microsoft would counter by integrating an HD DVD drive with the Xbox 360. However, to keep costs down, Microsoft went with a standard DVD-ROM drive on their new console, causing some to wonder if Blu-ray would wind up with an edge in the format wars.

However, Microsoft promised that a HD DVD drive would be available for the 360 as an add-on, and that more details would emerge as we got closer to E3. In a recent announcement, Microsoft revealed that the peripheral will connect to the 360 using a USB 2.0 cable, and will use the console itself to output HD video and surround sound.

The press release for the announcement is indicative of how large companies are trying to take control over online E3 coverage, which used to be reserved mainly for crazed fans and their personal blogs. Microsoft is clearly trying to add a more “hip” feel to its marketing message, but occasionally the wires get a bit crossed and hip turns into condescending:

To most consumers, HD DVD is probably a new phrase, but it’s simple to decipher. The HD is high definition and DVDs are those hundreds of millions of shiny discs sold worldwide.

Microsoft is being extremely cagey about revealing the price of this unit, saying that they will “save that good news for another day”—probably at E3 itself. They state many times that they feel lower prices will be a prime advantage of the HD DVD format. The press release mentions the difference between the cheapest standalone HD DVD player (US$500) and the least expensive Blu-ray one (US$1,000) and says that Microsoft is “clearly out to make this an affordable option for Xbox 360 owners.” The page even mentions the existence of new hybrid DVD/HD DVD discs as a reason to support that format over Blu-ray.

In addition to the press release, Microsoft has opened up a developers’ blog for the team working on the HD DVD add-on. This “dual-prong” marketing approach (get both the hipsters and the geeks) shows how important Microsoft feels it is to win the format war, but whether marketing alone can turn the tide is doubtful. The third possible outcome of the battle, one that no company wants to talk about, is that neither side will win and consumers will avoid the confusion by sticking with regular DVDs.

News source: ARSTECHNICA


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