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Official: Toshiba discontinues HD DVD

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Toshiba has abandoned HD DVD "following recent major changes in the market", it announced this morning. The company spun the failure of its favourite format as a move made to strengthen the industry.

The consumer electronics giant said it will "no longer develop, manufacture and market HD DVD players and recorders".

It will begin to reduce shipments of HD DVD players to retail channels, aiming to stop shipping product by the end of March.

Consumers who've bought into HD DVD will continue to be supported, Toshiba said. However, we have to question the long-term availability of software updates since the format arguably now has no real future.

Toshiba also said it will continue to try and work with the companies - Microsoft, HP, Universal and Paramount among them - who helped it promote the HD DVD format.

However, the time had come for a change of strategy, it admitted.

“We carefully assessed the long-term impact of continuing the so-called 'next-generation format war' and concluded that a swift decision will best help the market develop,” said Atsutoshi Nishida, President and CEO of Toshiba.

Where will Toshiba go now? In its statement, it highlighted the other technologies it's driving, including Flash storage, tiny hard drives, wireless and "next-generation CPUs" - the latter a reference to what it's doing with the Cell processor it co-developed with Sony and IBM. Earlier this year, it demoed an HDTV powered by Cell.

Toshiba didn't address ongoing development of HD DVD drives for computers, and it's always possible the format will live on as a data-storage technology. The company had 51GB HD DVD discs in the lab, and these might yet be fully accepted into the HD DVD standard by the DVD Forum, the organisation that oversees both the DVD and HD DVD standards.

But the boost today's news will have given the Blu-ray Disc camp means it's unlikely HD DVD will have much of a future even here.

And it is good news for hi-def. Sony's victory may stoke sales of HD discs after shoppers held back purchases because of uncertainty over which technology would prevail. US retailers plan to stop selling HD DVDs after Warner Home Entertainment, the largest DVD publisher, said last month it would release its films only on Blu-ray.

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