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HD picture still fuzzy.

The high-def format war may be over, but confusion surrounding it--and other entertainment gizmos--won't go away overnight.

The government-mandated switch to digital transmission next year is baffling enough for some consumers; others fail to grasp the need to buy an HDTV and a high-def player to play next-gen discs. Upconverting DVD players and Universal Media Discs only add to the confusion for consumers who just want to watch a movie in the comfort of their home.

After Toshiba pulled out of the high-def fray Feb. 19, the homevid biz quickly rallied around the need for a united front behind the victorious Blu-ray format. Even Universal, the studio most committed to HD DVD, promptly pledged its aggressive support.

But HD DVD will live on at retail--at least for a while. Amazon and Circuit City slashed prices of players but continues to sell them, and Warners said it would continue to issue HD DVD discs through May, as originally promised, albeit at a delay after issuing the same movies on Blu-ray.

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It's not clear how effectively stores will make it clear that HD DVD is going the way of Betamax, either. Homevid execs have expressed frustration about retailers' inability to guide consumers through high-def buying decisions. Yet these same chains are the ones that put the final nails in the coffin for HD DVD.

Many big chains took years to give up their VHS habit. It was only when high-def formats and next-gen game consoles started hitting stores that they had had enough.

Sony chief Howard Stringer alluded to VHS's long, slow demise in a post-victory interview with the Wall Street Journal last week. Dismissing the contention that high-clef discs will be quickly supplanted by digital downloads, he quipped, "Nothing is ever as fast as anyone thinks."

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Title Annotation:Smoke & Mirrors: BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE BIZ'S DEALS, DECISIONS AND DIVERSIONS; Toshiba Corp.
Author:Garrett, Diane
Publication:Variety
Article Type:Brief article
Date:Feb 25, 2008
Words:297
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