Ross Rubin (@rossrubin) contributes Switched On, a column about consumer technology.
The Blu-ray Disc Association has positioned Toshiba joining its membership as the epilogue in the company's once pitched battle for high-definition disc domination. It could, however, merely be a new chapter in the broader story of home entertainment as it uses the players not only to fill some product-line gaps but takes advantage of their connectivity to move to a future beyond any disc standard.
Back when it was tending to its fresh format war wounds, Toshiba did not always see this potential. After it exited-- and effectively ended-- the HD DVD market, the March 3, 2008 edition of The Wall Street Journal ran an interview with Toshiba chief executive Atsutoshi Nishida
that detailed ambitious plans for avoiding Blu-ray. On the low end, Toshiba would improve DVD playback to seek near-parity with Blu-ray quality at lower cost. That idea was productized in Toshiba's XDE DVD players and televisions
. XDE was met with mixed reviews
, however, and the plummeting prices of Blu-ray hardware last holiday season cut its viability short.
Flirting with connectivity on the high-end, Nishida noted that it was now possible to bridge PCs and televisions better, and that he wanted to put "even more energy" into video downloading. He may have been considering Toshiba's Qosmio multimedia powerhouse notebooks as an engine for driving high-definition content to the television. However, the long-lingering idea of bridging the PC and television, while indeed becoming easier technologically, still simply isn't worth the effort for most consumers. At CES 2009 as Sony, Sharp, Panasonic, Samsung, LG and Vizio showed off connected televisions, Toshiba didn't announce any broadband content partnerships for its premium Regza line of TVs.