CES - is HD-DVD dead?

Possibly the biggest story of CES has happened before the show has even begun. Warner Bros has announced that it will no longer support HD-DVD, leavin

Possibly the biggest story of CES has happened before the show has even begun. Warner Bros has announced that it will no longer support HD-DVD, leaving Blu-Ray as the leading hi-def movie format, with the exclusive support of all the major film studios except for Paramount and Dreamworks.

Warners had previously supported both hi-def disc formats, but is citing consumer demand as the reason for its move to exclusively support Blu-Ray - joining Disney, Sony and Fox.

The announcement is a huge result for Sony, and particularly a massive boost to the beleaguered PlayStation 3 console, which - despite disappointing sales - is still one of the cheapest Blu-Ray disc players on the market.

The HD-DVD group has now cancelled its press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show, leading to much speculation that the format war is all but over.

The news is a massive blow to Toshiba - which has been promoting the HD-DVD format with a cheap players - and to Microsoft, the other significant backer of the HD-DVD format.

Of course, there is still plenty of life in Microsoft's Xbox 360 console, because the software giant cannily offers a HD-DVD player as an addition to the main Xbox unit, rather than opting to build a next-generation DVD format into the console. That means that if HD-DVD does disappear, Microsoft could simply release a new external Blu-Ray drive for its console,  and only risk alientating a small proportion of its users. Nonetheless, PlayStation 3 owners will be gloating.

And if the war is truly over, it's good news for consumers - because it'll finally be worth investing in a hi-def video player without the fear of being stuck with the next Betamax.

The battle isn't quite over yet, however - we'll be at the Toshiba press conference tomorrow to cover events as they unfold.

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