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HD DVD 'popular with Europeans', trade body claims

Two Europeans? 20? 200?

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Toshiba's HD DVD players account for 74 per cent of European sales of next-gen optical disc players, the local wing of the HD DVD Promotion Group proudly announced this week. But what it crucially neglected to say was 74 per cent of what? 1m units? 100,000? 10,000? 1000? 10?

Without that crucial unit shipments figure, the percentage is meaningless and tantamount to the HD DVD PG simply saying that some Europeans have bought some players.

Of course, Register Hardware did ask for some more useful numbers, but the organisation wouldn't provide any, leaving us unsure just how well - or not - HD DVD players are doing in the face Sony's PlayStation 3, the key weapon in the arsenal of the rival Blu-ray Disc camp.

However, the HD DVD PG did tell us that more than 500,000 HD DVD players and Xbox 360 drives have been sold worldwide. Out of that, we can take the 150,000 HD DVD players sold in the US up to the end of May, the cut-off point for the half-a-million units measurement, we believe. Microsoft said in June it had sold at least 155,000 Xbox 360 add-on drives, leaving the remaining 195,000 units to be accounted for.

In other words, that 195,000 HD DVD players and Xbox peripherals sold in Europe and Asia.

The Blu-ray Disc camp is no less vague. Sony has shipped more than 1m PS3s in the PAL territories since the console launched there at the end of March. Up to that date, the consumer electronics giant had sold 2.62m machines in the US, it told us, but wouldn't say how many have been sold since, nor has it published an up-to-date figure for sales in Japan, though local publisher Enterbrain calculates just over 500,000 units were purchased their during 2007. To that we can add the million that Sony said in had sold in Japan up until the end of December 2006.

Add those numbers up and we have 5.62m units worldwide, minimum.

Of course, the crucial point here - as the HD DVD PG understandably likes to emphasise - is that HD DVD players are bought by folk who definitely want to watch HD movies, while those many, many more PS3 purchases only represent consumers who may want to watch films in HD.

Still, when your sales are more than 11 times higher than your rivals, you can well afford a much lower attach rate, so it's no wonder the Blu-ray Disc camp is so keen on the PS3. If all the HD DVD player owners each buy five discs, only half the PS3 owners out there only need buy one BDs each to outsell the other other format.

The battle for the hearts and minds of the world's consumers continues...

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