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Microsoft execs rekindle HD-DVD hype

As the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo looms ever closer, executives at Microsoft have once again begun to confidently predict a victory for HD-DVD, dismissing Sony's Blu-Ray format as another Betamax.

As the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo looms ever closer, executives at Microsoft have once again begun to confidently predict a victory for HD-DVD, dismissing Sony's Blu-ray format as another Betamax.

Microsoft has publicly backed the HD-DVD format pushed by Toshiba and NEC for some time, and is widely expected to announce details of an external HD-DVD drive for its next-generation Xbox 360 console at the E3 expo in May, which is perhaps why the company execs appear to be once again seizing every opportunity to vocalise their support.

During a recent interview with Spiegel Online, Microsoft's Chris Lewis likened the latest format war to Sony's failed attempt at dominating the video market in the late 1970s, stating: "Blu-ray right now reminds us of another technology from Sony: Betamax. A bit like VHS - we think that HD-DVD is the format that consumers, film studios and publishers will embrace.

Sony's Blu-ray format may suffer as a result of a noticeably higher price-point, which could detract from consumer adoption, the cost calling into question the price point for the PlayStation 3, which launches worldwide in November and will be the first console to support the format.

Picking up on this point, Lewis was quick to sing the praises of a more flexible approach for consumers offered by its optional external HD-DVD for the Xbox 360, commenting: "we think it's about giving consumers choice, we think it's about not necessarily asking them to pay over the odds for a technology that, at the moment, is unproven. We're watching what goes on, but I think we're offering a broader, more flexible choice that doesn't burden the consumer with a cost element that may be wasted."

Echoing the unabashed support for HD-DVD, Microsoft founder Bill Gates discussed the technology during a recent visit to Japan, where sales of the Xbox 360 have been less than impressive and Microsoft is making concerted efforts to push localised gaming content, community features and High Definition multi-media experiences.

"We think products like HD-DVD and Xbox 360 are really going to drive consumers to expect that high definition," Gates commented.

The war of words is, at present, just that, as neither HD-DVD nor Blu-ray has any commercial standing at this point in time. Until the full details of the external HD-DVD drive for the Xbox 360 are announced, Sony's PS3 reaches market in November, and electronics manufacturers start to release consumer devices to support movie and entertainment playback on either format, the ultimate victor will remain nothing more than speculation.

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