For the last couple weeks, Buy.com has had an absolutely smokin' deal on the Xbox 360 HD-DVD Drive. IMO, it's a better deal than the $100 players from Best Buy. For $170, you get the drive (which comes with King Kong in the box), plus Heroes Season 1 on HD-DVD (which retails by itself for $70). On top of all of that, Microsoft and Toshiba have switched up their 5 Free HD-DVD collection with a much better selection of movies. So you get a drive plus 12 HD-DVD discs for the same price as the drive itself used to be. It was a deal that I just couldn't pass up. The package came on Tuesday, and I've been having a great time getting my home theatre set up the way I want, and enjoying my new HD-DVDs.

So then I found out that, while Blockbuster has been a huge Blu-Ray supporter, they still have a pretty serious collection of HD-DVDs in their "Total Access" program. Unfortunately, you'd never know it, because the site hardly says anything about it, and it's buried under the "Collections" menu item. But I cleared out my queue and loaded it up with a bunch of movies that I already love that I can't wait to see in hi-def.

Then yesterday I came across this website explaining what HD-DVD is to the consumer. Microsoft built and owns the site, which I found to be very interesting. They have a huge stake in the HD-DVD war for reasons other than the Xbox 360. For example, I found out here that Microsoft is building a reference player that uses Windows CE6 to enable a simpler platform. Microsoft also designed the HDi standard, and this page explains how it works, and links to sample code. There is some interesting content on the site, but I definitely have some issues with it.

So I think that Microsoft's attempt to engage the consumer this way is a good thing overrall, but this site needs a LOT of work. For starters, why isn't the whole thing done in Silverlight? You're talking about high-definition and high-interactivity, but the site is about as interactive as a post. They should be using tons of eye-candy to blow people out of the water on how cool HD-DVD is. And Microsoft has a whitepaper on the home page that talks about why they support HD-DVD.... it's one of the most boring whitepapers I've ever seen... and I've read a lot of whitepapers. If they expect a consumer to read that document, they're totally nuts. I did learn that HD-DVD uses red leasers instead of blue ones, so it wasn't a total waste of time.

If this site is targeted at consumers, Microsoft needs to step it up a notch. If it's targeted at content providers, they could still do a much better job explaining the business case for why the HD-DVD experience is just better.

However, having said that, I think that HD-DVD has hit the sweet spot when it comes to price point, and that the holidays will be a turning point for the format. So far, my experience with it has been nothing short of fantastic, and I can't wait to build out my collection. Hopefully all of the other 90,000 people that bought HD-DVD drives last week will go out and buy a bunch of movies on the format, so that the studios will capitulate and put movies like Spiderman 3 on HD-DVD too.

BTW, I think it's funny that in the face of HD-DVD's overwhelming week, that Sony CEO Howard Stringer just today called the format war a "stalemate", and "a difficult fight." I wonder how long they'll hold out before they're forced to concede defeat. And I wonder what a Blu-Ray defeat will do to the PS3. We'll see come February, after everyone has cashed in their holiday gift cards.


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