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DVD Format War Disastrous

TWICE: Your thoughts on the next-gen DVD format war?

Dave Workman, PRO Group: Unfortunately, all we really were doing was prolonging it. It’s not one of the prouder moments of the CE business in my opinion.

Steve Caldero, Ken Crane’s: This whole format war has also covered over the fact that all of these players have had problems. What other consumer electronic has had to have software updates available for them continuously? One Panasonic player has had six software updates. You’re supposed to go to the Web site, burn a CD and put it in the player.

Also, they don’t play all of the audio codecs and they all have different formatting. This one will pass 5.1, this one will pass 7.1. This one will play DTS but not Dolby, and this one will play Dolby and not DTS. How do you explain it to a customer when it’s all over the map? Your customer is asking, “Well, what should I buy? What’s the best product for me?” And you can’t tell them because nobody at these manufacturers seems to know anything about the products. You go online and the information is very limited about what the decoding capabilities are, what the HDMI series is. It’s a nightmare because people come to us to get answers, and we can’t give them any because even the manufacturers aren’t supplying them.

TWICE: This can’t be helping 1080p TV sales either.

Caldero: What can I watch on my new HDTV screen? Here is the perfect device that will give you that ultimate picture, but by the way there’s a little problem. You can only have this movie, you can’t have that movie, and if you have a 7.1 system you can’t use this, and if you have a 5.1, this one won’t work because the software is all different. We’ve had problems with 1080p TVs we sold two years ago that won’t accept a 1080p signal out of a Blu-ray player.

Then of course we take a wonderful new technology like Blu-ray that a year ago was $1,000, and today it’s free with the purchase.

I think people will move to something easier when you get an iPod-type download system that’s available and easy. Customers are going to go with what’s easy, even at the sacrifice of some video quality.

David Smith, Ultimate Electronics: More often than not we find ourselves having to push up-converting DVD players just because we want to attach another device. Until we have a clear winner and sufficient content available in the rental market, consumers are not going to feel comfortable.

Dan Schwab, D&H Distributing: It’s just a missed opportunity. It’s a shame. We’re preventing the economies of scale from kicking in, which prevents the mass adoption. In hindsight, it’s a loss for most of the industry.

Workman: And completely illogical because here you have all of these HDTVs out there and the consumer screaming for content. It should be the No. 1 attach. Thus far it’s probably been the biggest single missed opportunity for this industry because of the boom associated with flat panel and the gap created with content delivery to fulfill this purchase — which should be the most exciting thing they’ve recently acquired.

Fred Towns, New Age Electronics: The cable companies are saying thank you, thank you for the time to build up video-on-demand.