It's been a year and a half since the HD optical disc format war ended and, despite Toshiba's promise of "no plans to make Blu-ray players", the company finally admitted defeat this morning and announced their application to join the Blu-ray Association. Pocket-lint spoke to Olivier Van Wynendaele, assistant general manager, marketing, consumer products, Toshiba European Operations to find out what triggered the change of heart:
It's been a long time since Toshiba gave up on HD DVD and there's been plenty of opportunity to sign up to Blu-ray before. Why now?
Well, there are three reasons for that. Firstly, we did not feel at the time that the format was mature yet in terms of its internet connectivity and storage capacity but that's since changed and the BD services are arriving. Secondly, we had to wait for the market to have significant uptake and we're now seeing that across the major countries of the world. It's also something that our retailers are now looking for - BD products put out as part of consumer bundles with LCD and plasma TVs, and as part of players and recorders too.
Toshiba has taken significantly longer than all the other manufacturers to come round to the format, though. Has there also been a case of bitterness of not only having to adopt the conquering format in your machines but also to pay licence fees to your rival for the privilege?
No, there was no bitterness. It was a very sad decision to have to make at the time when we stopped producing HD DVD but it was the best business decision to make. In the same way, it's the best business decision to make now to go with Blu-ray.
As a question of business then, is it based on a drop in sales of your hardware, such as laptops?
BD drives have only been a part of high end laptop sales so far. Many machines still don't even have a DVD drive. So, I don't believe it's had an impact on our PC sales but the high end consumer is someone who wants BD as an important storage device and we can't ignore them.
Had you been hoping for another format to take root in the last 18 months instead of Blu-ray and have you been working on any yourselves?
BD is not the unique answer to the one problem. There's flash memory and online as well, and we are investing in delivering HD content by those means too. There is a storage product we are working on at the moment that connects specifically to the internet but I can't talk any more about that right now.
Does Toshiba still have any stock of HD DVD or any of the players?
No there is nothing. Only after sales customer support still exists of HD DVD.
So, no chance of a cult revival in 20 years, then?
Well I still have a HD DVD player, but no.