HD DVD is almost certainly dead in the water. The surprise move of Warner to move to exclusive Blu-ray support has sunk any hope the HD DVD group ever had for winning the format war. What's more, there are rumours that the last two HD DVD studios -- Paramount and Universal -- are both planning a similar defection. So, can anything save the format now?
It seems pretty unlikely. If Universal and Paramount stay exclusive to HD DVD, however, it's possible the format could survive in the short term. Of course, the moment one or other of those companies leave, the war would certainly be over. Sony has proved many times that no matter how deep your pockets are, you can't win a format war when you're the only company behind it.
The other option is that either Toshiba or Microsoft could buy one of the remaining major film studios. Microsoft certainly has the cash for this, but the problem is finding one that would be for sale or is affordable. Time Warner is less profitable than Microsoft, so that would be the obvious choice. Fox is out because Murdoch is richer than God and allegedly lends money to Satan when he's short of a few quid. The only other option would be Disney, which is now part-owned by Steve Jobs, so it's unlikely to sell to Microsoft.
There's a very slim chance that the rapidly decreasing cost of HD DVD could lure consumers to buy equipment. Especially if they aren't aware that they will only be able to buy HD DVDs from two movie studios. In the US, certain players are retailing at around $130 (£65) with free HD DVDs via redemption. This makes them decent value even if you only use them as upscaling DVD players.
Of course, all of the above assumes that the rest of the world follows the US in HD matters. That is probably true, but there are plenty of independent, adult and European studios that support HD DVD at the moment. If Europe decided to ignore Blu-ray -- unlikely, based on PS3 sales -- then perhaps US distributors would be forced to release on HD DVD for Europe.
The only other option is that one of the Blu-ray exclusive producers decides for some reason -- possibly another payment -- that HD DVD is where their future lies. This is almost totally impossible, as Sony Pictures will obviously never leave and Disney and Fox care too much about preventing piracy to ever surrender the BD+ copy-protection scheme -- which, it's worth pointing out, doesn't seem to be stopping piracy.
However you look at it, the chances are pretty slim that HD DVD has much of a chance. Despite being a good, well designed and cheap HD format, it seems the Blu-ray disc association has the right combination of factors to attract the consumer. -Ian Morris