They said it best over at Engadget in describing Toshiba’s 2008 CES press conference as more of a funeral. It had been just a few days after Warner made a public announcement that they’d be going exclusive with Blu-ray, and the mood over at the HD DVD part of the show was definitely morose.
A whole year later in 2009, Toshiba has put on a much happier press conference full of some new HD related innovations, but with the notable absence of any Blu-ray support. Among Toshiba’s announcements were Regza HDTV models that can play movies stored on USB flash drives, or downloaded directly from the internet. The models also offer enhanced up-scaling of non-HD video, and a 240Hz effect for smoother motion.
Toshiba also presented upcoming technology using the Cell processor which could handle multiple HD sources simultaneously, for example a DVR serving different rooms with their own HD movies. The Cell was also driving a prototype 56-inch 4K x 2K resolution HDTV (which is double the current HDTV resoluton). The Cell processor was jointly developed by Toshiba, IBM and Sony, and Toshiba has been working with it since around the pre-HD DVD days on various multimedia applicatons. IBM has used the Cell on some servers, and Sony uses it as the brains for the PS3.
It’s been interesting to see what the other companies, many of which are already Blu-ray supporters, have been up to as well. While they are still pushing forward with Blu-ray technology, LG, Samsung, Panasonic, and even Sony seem to be embracing digital downloads too. All have announced HDTVs that connect to the internet for the purpose of viewing various kinds of content. LG has also been working on Blu-ray players that download movies.
Most of us in the USA have some form of high-speed internet at home, and even on our mobile phones when we are out and about. It’s an inevitability that we will receive more and more of our movies from some sort of online/on-demand source. It’s also inevitable that these movies will become more HD and eventually rival what we already had in HD DVD and can get now on Blu-ray. But when exactly will that happen? And will there be a physical format, like a 50-layer Blu-ray disc, that delivers the next level of HD resolution (like the aforementioned 4K x 2K)? Or will the next physical format be some kind of memory card like the recently announced SDXC?
In all this talk about the future, I was somewhat amused to hear that one of Panasonic’s new Blu-ray players is a combo unit that also plays VHS tapes. I’m sure they have a good reason for doing this, and I hope it’s better than, “because we can.” I hope it upscales those VHS tapes really, really, really well.