Posted on April 4, 2008,

Microsoft Claims it Backed the Right Horse in the Format Wars


Yep, HD DVD is dead and gone and Blu-ray has emerged victorious, but Microsoft’s Neil Thompson still believes the company “backed the right horse.” And no, he’s not talking about HD DVD.

What does it feel like to back the wrong horse? Thompson laughs resolutely. “What do you mean?” he jokes. “The horse that we’re fundamentally backing is the one that says the future of entertainment content is online digital distribution. I would argue that we backed the right horse.

“If we’re sitting here in 12 or 18 months time, we’ll be saying ‘why were people even thinking about a disc format when it’s really about digital distribution?’ Our strategy’s been developed for the last six or seven years, and ever since we launched the platform it [online content] has been our big, big, big bet.”

This comes by way of The Guardian, which didn’t further press Thompson on what I think many of us will find funny, but only out of irony. There’s no doubt that Microsoft intends on backing digital distribution, and has done so for quite some time. But with the way he suggests that disc formats will be looked at as being so irrelevant within the next 18 months, why did Microsoft ever bother with HD DVD? So we could all have a worthless add on once digital distribution becomes the blatantly obvious platform of choice.

I believe digital distribution is the future, but the arrogant assertion that Microsoft was only really behind digital distribution really irks me. Am I the only one? (Yes, maybe I’m still a bit upset over having bought a full price HD DVD player in December. Sigh. At least I still have Bourne.)

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8 Comments on Microsoft Claims it Backed the Right Horse in the Format Wars

Andrew S.

On April 4, 2008 at 11:23 pm

An interesting idea I had heard quite a while before HD-DVD was officially done for was that the only reason they had bothered with it was to stick a thorn in Sony’s side when the current generation was younger, and that the focus truly was on digital distribution from the get-go. The amount of sense that makes is inversely proportional to the amount of money they lost on HD-DVD, but I couldn’t say what that figure is.

Andrew K.

On April 5, 2008 at 12:26 am

I actually believe his statements (re: HD-DVD), and think it was all in the cards from the get-go. I think the longer the format war was prolonged, the harder it would have been for either format to be fully accepted by the market. At this point, I don’t really know anyone rushing out to buy a $399 Blu-Ray player, as 100 bucks is what the average consumer expects to pay for a device that plays discs on their TVs.

I will not be wasting $399 to enjoy crispy looking movies on my 50″ plasma. And by the time Sony hits my $100 price point, I’ll probably be downloading at half the price. Blu-Ray Disc… welcome to the world of LaserDisc 2.0.


On April 5, 2008 at 4:59 am

Anyone who thinks digital distribution of HD movies has any realistic chance of stopping Blu-ray is a moron who hasn’t got the faintest idea of the reality of the situation. Even though itunes is hugely popular 70% of all music is still bought on CD in the states and music is a much easier media to download than a HD movie. Who in their right mind is going to spend days downloading a copy of a movie when they can have an original ordered and received from a store quicker? There is also the little matter that most Internet connections are (I live in London and I can only get 1mb) and that the vast majority of people who use DVDs wouldnt know where to start with downloading.

Digital distraction may be the future in 10+ years but even then it would take enormous changes in the worlds mindset, Internet connections and the technological expertise of the average consumer who right now cant even figure out how to set the timer on a VCR.


On April 5, 2008 at 5:01 am

@ Andrew K

So you spent a load of money on a 50″ plasma but aren’t willing to pay to watch anything decent on it? The quality of downloads is appalling compared to Blu-ray so you are either an idiot or a liar.


On April 5, 2008 at 8:42 am

Why does eddie murphys crap movie haunt me?? anyways, no one will be relying on DL’ing this stuff for a while. I pay I want a hard copy, not a file on a system that could crash and leave me with nothing, nevermind the time required to dl this kind of content, does bill gates think we all have T1′s?

northbit since 94!


On April 5, 2008 at 9:57 am

Norbit… Just because you have 1MB access in London doesn’t mean that’s where the rest of the world is. I get 5MB to my house and it doesn’t take that long to get a movie. A few hours at worst… certainly not days. I own HD dvd and Blu-Ray along with Xbox live for digital downloads and there is a real future in digital distribution. Your opinion is just like that of the people who said MP3 would fail. Who wants digital music when u can buy a CD? Last I checked i hear that ipod thingy is doing quite well.
It sounds like you bought a Blu-Ray player and feel threatened by a little competition.


On April 5, 2008 at 2:44 pm

Amazing how much crap Microsoft is saying, just because they won’t admit they bit on the WRONG horse this time…

Downloading a Hi Def movie… Yeah right! I can drive to the city, return, and watch the movie, by the time it takes to download it.

Microsoft. You are sounding like an old sad git.


On April 5, 2008 at 3:18 pm

@ HDGuy

Comparing HD download movies with MP3 is unbelievably retarded :roll:

The vast majority of MP3 downloads are used primarily on portable music players where quality isn’t really an issue and even with the success of MP3 70% of music is still purchased on physical media. Digital downloads haven’t even taken over from physical media where its incredibly convenient and where quality isn’t needed so how the hell are they going to do so where the media is going to be played on HD TV’s? Quality IS an issue and the quality of digital downloads is way below that of Blu-ray or HD-DVD.

HD downloads will succeed because MP3 did is something only idiots say.