Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Format wars get ugly

It started off with a simple challenge. Unable to reach a consensus on one format, Toshiba went their way with HD DVD, and Sony went theirs with Blu-ray — and let the best high-tech giant win.

It started off with a simple challenge. Unable to reach a consensus on one format, Toshiba went their way with HD DVD, and Sony went theirs with Blu-ray — and let the best high-tech giant win.

Toshiba was first to market, and remains cheaper because their technology is really just a minor tweak to DVDs. However, Sony’s next generation technology offers more capacity — which is important when you’re storing high definition video — as well as better performance through higher data transfer rates.

Sales were slow in the beginning for both formats, and still lag behind the sale of conventional DVD players. But things are starting to pick up.

Sony appears to have taken the lead. While they haven’t sold many standalone players, the decision to include the Blu-Ray format in the Playstation 3 is paying dividends. About four million consoles have been sold worldwide, which provides Blu-ray with an established customer base.

Sony has also won more converts in the entertainment industry than Toshiba. A few months ago the Blockbuster chain of rental stores announced that they would only stock Blu-ray disks for their customers. Last week, the Target chain of stores announced that they would only sell Blu-ray disks this Christmas season.

Microsoft, which backs Toshiba and the HD-DVD standard, responded within hours by knocking $20 off their add-on HD-DVD player for the Xbox 360 — with nearly 12 million Xbox 360s sold and Halo 3 not even in stores yet, it was a smart move to counter all this Blu-ray momentum. While buying an Xbox 360 Elite and HD-DVD add-on is actually more expensive than buying a PS3 with Blu-ray built-in, Toshiba has sweetened the deal by offering five free movies with every purchase until Sept. 30 from a pool of 15 movies. Not great movies, but I could see myself going for Apollo 13, Chronicles of Riddick, Constantine, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and, hmmm…

Wait, that deal is only good in the U.S. Which is unfortunate because this is a battle for world domination, and you can’t afford to lose in even one major market.

The next six months will be key for both formats, so expect weekly pronouncements from both Sony and Toshiba that will tell you why they are winning the format wars.

By January there should be a clearer winner to go along with the post-holiday sales. I’d wait until then before making the leap, or risk buying a system that could be obsolete by this time next year.


Wii pushes fitness angle

Last week I was caught by my roommate playing guitar, reading the new Harry Potter, listening to the Tour de France on television, and eating a pasta dinner — all at the same time. He found it hilarious, but obviously he’s never heard of multi-tasking — from my perspective squeezing in four pleasurable and relaxing things at the same time is just good time management.

During the winter I ride a bike trainer while watching television or playing Playstation. I read in the bathroom. I play guitar while eating, watching television, or reading. It’s gotten to the point where I feel weird doing just one thing at a time, at which point I’ll usually add some music to the picture.

It’s not that I can’t concentrate on one thing at a time, I just choose to squeeze as much in to my hours of free time as possible.

Which is why I’m starting to think that I should get a   Nintendo Wii.

When it was first released, one enterprising gamer started playing Wii Sports six days a week for half an hour and reportedly lost nine pounds in a month and a half. He ate all the things he usually ate, and didn’t follow any exercise regimen other than playing the Wii — exaggerating the motions of course, but the important thing is that it didn’t feel like exercise .

Some experts have expressed doubts about Mickey DeLorenzo’s weight loss claims, given that his numbers for calories burned do not add up to nine pounds, but it clearly had some impact on his lifestyle. Maybe he ate slightly better or slightly less. Maybe he snuck in an extra half hour here or there. The point is, he lost SOME weight, increased his level of fitness a little bit, and had fun doing it. Dancing around your living room with a controller beats sitting around and watching television.

Nintendo recently announced plans to sell the Wii Balance Board, a touch-sensitive board that looks like two bathroom scales stuck together. The board will allow people to run on the spot, jump, kick, dance, and perform exercise routines at home while playing games or following routines.

The video from the E3 conference is actually pretty cool — check it out at . The board can actually sense when you lean forward or back, or when you shift your balance from your heels to your toes, left leg to right leg.

None of the games seem to use the Wiimote at the same time, but imagine skateboard games, skiing, games, track and field games, and first person shooters where you do all the walking and running.

The best part is that you can compete with your friends and family members in different sports and events to see who has the best balance, best dance moves, and fastest feet.

One answer to our growing weight problem is to turn off the television. Another might be to turn on a Nintendo Wii.