Toshiba comes over to the Blu side

Toshiba is to release its first Blu-ray DVD player. It comes 17 months after the firm’s decision to ditch the rival HD-DVD format effectively spelled the end of the next-generation format wars.

At the time, Toshiba spoke of exploring other ways of delivering high-definition content rather than DVD, such as portable drives and wireless technology to carry signals from PCs to television screens.

However, it appears the firm has finally concluded that whatever embarrassment it might feel in producing Blu-ray is more than outweighed by the potential business to be had with the format. In particular, it seems Toshiba was particularly losing out by not offering Blu-ray players – and thus not offering any high-definition DVD functionality at all – when it sold HDTV home cinema packages which incorporate a screen, DVD player and surround sound system in one.

And while Blu-ray adoption has been somewhat disappointing, even since its format war “victory”, players have reached the point where they are cheap enough for mainstream adoption. The format is particularly popular in Japan, one of Toshiba’s key markets.

Japanese reports now say Toshiba will release a player under the name BD18 later this year. It’s thought the firm will also produce a Blu-ray recorder, though the timescale for that isn’t known.

While HD-DVD originally outsold Blu-ray, the latter format took the lead at the end of 2006 and maintained it until HD-DVD’s demise. While it was HD-DVD which was the first to sign movie studios to exclusive format deals, a decision by Warner to go Blu-ray only on its releases started a stampede of retailers away from HD-DVD.

And although the extent of the effects are hard to measure, it’s likely that Sony including Blu-ray playing by default in the PS3 console while the X-Box 360 only had HD-DVD as an add-on feature helped widen the gap.