Saturday, August 27, 2005

Where is Jan Timmer now that DVD needs him?

Toshiba has announced last Wednesday that it will have its own DVD format HD-DVD. This means that Sony and Philips will follow Blu-ray. No format will bring these parties together. In the end it will mean that there will be two losers; this despite the support from NEC and Sanyo for Toshiba and Dell and HP for the Sony/Philips combination.

This fight is not new; we have seen it before in 1997/1998. Sony/Philips were battling yes again Toshiba and trying to win Toshiba over to one format. First Toshiba did not want to talk with the Sony/Philips combination. But when Jaap Timmer did some arm wrestling with the Toshiba captains, the situation changed. At once, plane loads of engineers were flown into Japan and Korea and, in the end, one DVD standard was published. The manufacturers were happy and the people were happy, as they did not have to make the choice.

Mr Jan Timmer

Of course this game goes back to the video recorder tape. More than one format was presented to the market: VHS, Betamax, Video2000. Betamax was technically the best, a reason for the broadcast industry to have used it for years. Video2000 not bad either. VHS was certainly not the best one. But in the end there were more VHS tapes with sex on offer that from Philips. So not the best quality, but the most appealing content to some tastes won the deadlock. So then CD-ROM came around there was not really a problem as Philips set the standards itself, but broke itself all the rules again with CD-I; CD-I eventually did never made in the industry.
What is the reason that Toshiba wants to go alone by itself. That is hard to say. It is certain that Philips and Sony have the most patents on the silver platter. When they fought for one DVD standard they did so believing that the movie- and music industry would benefit from one standard. Sony and to a lesser extents Philips would reap the benefits from the movies as they would cash not only patent but also collect movie rights. Toshiba has also a lobby behind the company, all hoping to clasp their hands with merry when the royalties pour in.

Why would Toshiba choose now for a two way solution? Technically it will not make any difference. One giga more or one giga less will not make, for the whole movie will have to fit the disc. Diffrences in quality are not going to count either as the quality level has been upgraded with the first generation of DVD.

So it will have to come from marketing. By adhering to its own standard, Toshiba hopes that the family relationships among film makers and the TV-producer and Toshiba will be intensified. Of course Toshiba is hoping that people will buy the Toshiba player and/or recorder and a movie from one of its own movie companies. But this is dependent on the offer of the moment. So sex movies as an incentive will not help this time around. Some real blockbusters are needed to make the difference. But people will sit and wait as they will not buy two playing and/or recording machines, certainly not in the first year, when the machines are still expensive. So in the end, the people will buy the best offer and the best collection of movies. Once they have bought a machine, they will not buy a second one. So the customer looses having to buy two machines and the electronics companies will loose as they will have to fight each other with marketing campaigns and court cases about false claims.

Jaap Timmer was a loudmouth and a bully sometimes, but he was a prize fighter for Philips and Sony as well as for the consumer when it came to the specifications of standards for the first generation of DVD.

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