Interview with Toshiba GM, Mark Whittard - Continued
TT: If Toshiba had their time again, what would be done differently?
MW: [Pause] Ah, good question. If you only had the foresight to see, obviously we would have done something different, but given our knowledge at the time of other format wars along with the fact that there was collaboration with DVD, also taking into account that Sony and Phillips dropped their multimedia CD standard and joined Toshiba to formulate DVD technology; I don't think we'd do anything different. At the time, as I said through my presentation, all the signs were there. The DVD forum had approved and further developed the HD-DVD format as the successor to DVD; that included all of the Blu-ray members, all of the studios and so our view was that it was the best technology. So I don't think that would have changed unless you had foresight of what potentially could have come.
TT: You've mentioned quite a few times in your presentation that many consumers fail to see the difference between Blu-ray and HD-DVD versus upscaled DVD. With that in mind, why did Toshiba use the Raeon high quality upscaling hardware in the XE-1? Why wouldn't you just drop that so there is a firmer difference between the two technologies?
MW: We are always a firm believer in trying to deliver the best technology, and at the best price point. If there is an ability to put inherent value into a product without significant cost; and to offer it for the same price to the consumer - we will do that, and we will continue to do that. We don't look at it from a point of view that if there's an opportunity to strip out a feature because it compromises a position. It's like; if we can afford it to put it in at a price to offer it to the consumer, we will do that.
TT: Do you think that including it ultimately hurt?
MW: I don't think so, no. At the time it was a good selling point.
TT: Obviously now, Toshiba has the opinion that digital distribution is going to be the future from 2009…
MW: Well it could be as early as 2009.
TT: Do you think that Blu-ray will hit mainstream?
MW: I think it's going to be very tough for them, and good luck to them; but as I explained before, DVD has such a strong foothold on the market and the upscaling technology of DVD gets near the quality [pause], and it's difficult to tell the difference when you put them side by side; Blu-ray and upscaled DVD, so I think they have their work cut out for them. We're of the firm belief that it's not going to be as successful as DVD was in replacing VHS, because there are so many other factors, particularly the projected lifespan being much shorter, and other technologies will come into play as an opportunity to replace DVD.
TT: Thanks for your time, Mark.
MW: Nice to meet you, thanks.
Overall, the press conference was a restrained event. Everybody knew why they were there, and what would happen. It was personally disappointing to me that after being so enamored with the picture quality afforded by HD-DVD, for the creators to write it off as merely little better than upscaled DVD. Having viewed hundreds of high definition movies in the last year and then comparing them to DVD, I would have to strongly disagree with their position. But who knows, maybe I am in the minority.
Nonetheless, it was good to get a local perspective of the situation and how it would affect Australia. I would like to thank Toshiba for the invitation and to the General Manager, Mark Whittard for agreeing to our interview.