The first HD-DVD player is now available in Japan, and we're expected to see it for sale in the U.S. in a matter of weeks. But what with format wars, a weak dollar, and a flagging film industry, it's anything but certain to become a hit. I'm still on the fence...
Cons: What's with these format wars? Didn't the film industry learn anything from Beta vs. VHS? More recently, the music industry has failed to supplement sagging CD sales with next-gen optical media because they couldn't choose between SACD and DVD-Audio. Despite the fact that players have been on the market for years (at low prices, no less), discs are selling like coldcakes. And who can blame consumers for their confusion and frustration? Also, with the dollar in the dumps, it's going to be increasingly difficult to price foreign CE imports at mass adoption levels and still turn a profit.
Pros: Unlike the high-def music format wars, consumers actually care about the outcome here. As I keep saying, we live in a visual culture. Sound quality has consistently devolved over the last 20 years. CD sounds worse than vinyl, MP3 sounds worse than CD. By contrast, visual quality is going up, up, up. HD TV's still cost thousands of bucks, but Best Buy can't keep them on the shelves. This high install base of format-neutral display devices will increase demand for content that justifies the investment.
Expect PS3 to boost Blu-Ray disc demand (if and when it actually ships), and Windows Vista to boost HD-DVD disc demand (if and when it actually ships), but a true mass market won't emerge until we stop our bloody warring and make sweet love.