Toshiba canceled its CES press conference in the wake of a massive blow to their HD DVD line when Warner Home Video announced they would only support Blu-ray. But they’re definitely not running away scared as it appears Toshiba has pushed all of its chips to the center of the table in the form of four new HD DVD players.

This should have marked the happy, high-energy CES Las Vegas celebration for Toshiba, but instead there is the scent of forced desperation in the air. Toshiba has their backs to the wall with only the lumbering giant, Paramount backing their HD DVD format. The new units range from $299 to $799.

I don’t like it. Nobody is going to buy an $800 HD DVD player right now.

The press release (read it here) looks like it was written either long-before the Warner announcement or thrown together right afterward.

“We are pleased with the consumer acceptance of our HD DVD players in the market,” said Jodi Sally, Vice President of Marketing for Toshiba’s Digital A/V Group. “The combination of HD DVD’s state of the art audio/video performance and unrivaled interactive capabilities along with exciting consumer promotions and affordable pricing in 2007 marked significant accomplishments for the HD DVD format,” Toshiba later said in the release.

Toshiba is also touting what they feel is the natural evolution of the DVD into the HD DVD:

“HD DVD was designed from the outset to be the evolution of the DVD format; every Toshiba HD DVD player is designed to play back DVDs and CDs. Toshiba’s HD DVD players will not only play DVD but will instantly make a movie lover’s existing DVD library look even better than it ever did with upconversion via the HDMI output. With the HD DVD format, consumers can experience true high def 1080p resolution for extraordinary detail that matches the latest state of the art 1080p HDTVs. Select Toshiba HD DVD players display images at 24 frames per second, the same frame rate used by directors when using film to create motion pictures, for a smoother, more film like, viewing experience.”

Look, the players are beautiful. They are impressive. HD DVD is a great format, but any $79 modern DVD player upconverts standard DVD’s. You can hack your old Xbox into an upconverting DVD player. I don’t think people want the natural progression from DVD to HD DVD. DVD certainly wasn’t a natural, painless progression from VHS. DVD was the next big thing. Now they’re slowly starting to look between HD DVD and Blu-ray to see which one is going to be the next big thing. I don’t know the answer to that question, but Blu-ray is winning. We weren’t sure of that a week ago, but Warner — like everyone else — wants to maximize its profits. And they can’t do that by supporting two fledgling high-def formats.

Anyway, the game isn’t over for HD DVD, but they’re definitely drawing to an inside straight.

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at [email protected]. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

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