By Matthew Henry

SYDNEY: The format war is far from over, according to Toshiba, which today announced the formation of an Australian HD DVD Consortium to promote the HD DVD optical disc format and hit back at Blu-ray.

Toshiba Information Systems Divison general manager, Mark Whittard, today disputed recent press reports suggesting that Blu-ray has already toppled HD-DVD in the next-generation HD optical disc format war.

“[The war] is not over, in fact it is just beginning,” said Whittard.

“I believe the formats will continue to coexist for some time.”

The new Australian HD DVD Consortium includes members such as Intel and Microsoft as well as movie studios such as Warner Bros and Paramount.

According to Whittard, HD DVD Consortium members have been in regular weekly contact for the past two months to devise a strategy for a counter-campaign against Blu-ray, which has enjoyed significant publicity this year from brands including Pioneer, Sony, Samsung and Panasonic.

However, Toshiba’s HD DVD promotional campaign has suffered serious disruption in the first half of this year with its former distributor, Castel Electronics, handing over the brand agency to Toshiba ISD.

“I would admit that we are behind the eight ball, but we are catching up. The consortium realises we have a lot of work to do,” said Whittard.

Toshiba claims to have sold in excess of 3,500 HD DVD players in the Australian market, which Whittard believes is significantly more than standalone Blu-ray players.

“Anecdotal evidence that we are getting from retailers is suggesting that they are not selling many home Blu-ray players,” said Whittard.

Just last month, Sony Australia claimed over 90 per cent of HD disc movie sales to date have been Blu-ray – supposedly an indicator that Blu-ray has raced ahead in the format war.

But reliable market data for hardware sales is hard to come by for the Australian market.

According to NPG figures presented today by Toshiba, HD DVD hardware sales are well ahead of Blu-ray with 55 per cent of sales to date in the USA and over 70 per cent in Europe.

However, Toshiba’s greatest challenge is from the Blu-ray-equipped PlayStation 3, which has sold well over 40,000 units in the Australian market alone.

The figures presented today by Toshiba did not include the PS3.

But Whittard argues that sales of PCs from his own brand as well as Acer and HP, as well as new Microsoft’s external HD DVD drive for the Xbox 360, go some way towards offsetting this advantage. Toshiba – the number one notebook PC brand in Australia – will ramp up implementation of HD DVD drives across its notebook PC range later this year as the drives become cheaper.

Toshiba also launched its own brand campaign today to reinforce its total high definition offering, which includes HD DVD and LCD TV, as well as its mobile computer products such as the Qosmio entertainment notebook PC with HD DVD drive.

The brand’s new catch cry, “Toshiba HD: Pure Intensity”, is meant to convey the immersive experience of high definition home entertainment, and will be used across the brand’s entertainment product portfolio.