Friday, March 7, 2008

HD DVD Defeat!!

Toshiba president on HD DVD: "I didn't think we stood a chance after Warner left us"

The high-definition format war was one that burned hot, but faded out fast. Although some were expecting HD DVD to continue to fight the good fight for a while longer, Toshiba threw in the towel on February 19 when it announced that it would discontinue manufacture of its HD DVD players.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, president and CEO of Toshiba Corporation Atsutoshi Nishida shared several of his thoughts during the final weeks of the HD DVD.

When asked when he first started considering Toshiba’s withdrawal from the format war, Nishida pointed to Warner Bros.’ announcement of Blu-ray Disc allegiance just before CES as the crucial point.

“We took a little time before reaching a final decision, so we could give people a chance to voice their opinions and we could consider all the ramifications and consequences of pulling out, such as how it would affect consumers and us,” said Nishida. “I didn't think we stood a chance after Warner left us because it meant HD DVD would have just 20% to 30% of software market share.”

While some may view the fall of HD DVD as a black eye on Toshiba, Nishida takes a more logical stance on the matter. “One has to take calculated risks in business, but it's also important to switch gears immediately if you think your decision was wrong. We were doing this to win, and if we weren't going to win then we had to pull out, especially since consumers were already asking for a single standard,” he said.

With HD DVD hardware production officially ceased at Toshiba, the Japanese electronics company has one less growth product in its roster. But Nishida isn’t worried, he said, “It was just one avenue of growth. It was one of 45 strategic business units that we have. This just means we now have 44.”

Although the battle for high-definition supremacy was highly publicized, the mainstream consumer still spends the majority of his or her entertainment dollar on regular DVDs.

“What people don't realize is that Hollywood studios are going to release new titles not just for Blu-ray but for standard DVDs as well, and there are a far greater number of current-generation DVD players out there,” Nishida said.

During the one of the final advertising pushes for HD DVD in North America, Toshiba advertised that its HD DVD players also function as upconversion hardware to scale regular 480p DVDs up to 1080i/p – a point that Nishida clings on to. Toshiba has expressed no plans to make any Blu-ray Disc hardware.

“If you watch standard DVDs on our players, the images are of very high quality because they include an "upconverting" feature. And we're going to improve this even more, so that consumers won't be able to tell the difference from HD DVD images,” the Toshiba leader said. “The players would be much cheaper than Blu-ray players too. Next-generation DVD players are in a much weaker position than when standard DVD players were first introduced.”

To be sure, upscaling does improve the presentation of standard DVD, especially on a high-end player such as the Toshiba HD-XA2 with its REON chip; but a 1080p-encoded HD DVD or Blu-ray Disc offers six times the resolution of a DVD – something that is clearly noticeable on larger displays.

In the heat of the battle, industry figures such as Hollywood director Michael Bay and 20th Century Fox president Mike Dunn theorized that Microsoft was looking past HD DVD and towards digital downloads. When asked if Toshiba would put its efforts behind video downloads, Nishida responded, “That's what we're hoping. We've been developing technologies in this area already, but now that we don't have the HD DVD business, I want to put even more energy into that.”

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Eee PC from ASUS Now Officially Include Windows XP

ASUS officially launches the Microsoft-equipped flavor of its popular ultra-portable

While enthusiasts have been loading Windows XP onto ASUS' ultra-portable Eee PC of their own regard since its launch, those who wanted to avoid the worry of customizing the Microsoft OS -- or just wanted the familiar "Windows Key" instead of the "Home Key" were left waiting for the official launch.

ASUS announced late on Wednesday the release of the Eee with a pre-loaded Windows XP operating system. Keeping the focus on the original philosophy of "Easy to learn, work, and play" the Eee-XP comes preloaded with a number of Windows Live products, such as Mail, Messenger, Photo Gallery, and "Family Safety" -- a parental-controls suite. The entry-level Microsoft Works suite will also be provided, but ASUS has specified that it will not be available in certain regions, likely due to localization restrictions on the software.

Given the issues about the lifespan of the internal SSD raised in an earlier DailyTech blog posting, there is some concern with regards to any new wear-leveling that may be put in place to extend the drive life. Most devices with solid-state storage have used operating systems designed to minimize repeated write-erase cycles, such as Linux or an embedded version of Windows, rather than a full consumer OS.

Having recently announced their second-generation Eee PC 900, ASUS is working to fend off attempts on the budget-ultraportable market from HP's upcoming 2133 sub-notebook, and the recently-unveiled ECS G10IL.

Pricing for the Eee-XP has not been announced at the time of this article, but previous predictions estimated that an additional markup of $30-$60 USD would be required over the Linux-equipped models.

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Joybook A53 from BenQ

With all these new Penryn-based lappies hitting the shelves, we can't help but be immediately underwhelmed by the BenQ Joybook A53. Sure, the case is fairly attractive, but still, offering up a Core 2 Duo T7250 with just 512MB of RAM is sort of weak. Granted, we've all ideas this one's being aimed at the budget-minded set, so hopefully they'll be down with the 80 to 200GB 5400RPM hard drive choices, dual-layer DVD writer, 15.4-inch WXGA (1,280 x 800) resolution display, trio of USB 2.0 ports, VGA output, audio in / out and 6-cell battery good for around 2.3-hours of usage. Also of note, you'll find integrated Ethernet / WiFi, a 4-in-1 multicard reader and a 0.3-megapixel webcam for pixelated video chats. Unfortunately, BenQ didn't mention how costly this one would be, but it will be rolling out to Poland, Russia, China, Thailand, and Australia right away, while the rest of the world has to wait just a few more months.

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