Living Room, Allow Me to Introduce You to HD

I'm finally taking the plunge into HD. Last week, I purchased a 42" Panasonic plasma HDTV for my living room, and my cranium is bursting with thoughts of HD DVD and Xbox 360 gaming and true HD broadcasts from HBO and, of course, the beginning of the football season. I'm a little embarrassed that it took me so long to embrace HD.

I suppose I'm still most fascinated by the next-generation DVD tussle, and by most accounts, HD DVD seems to be reaping the rewards of debuting first??with more affordable technology. Has Blu-ray stumbled fatally with its unfortunate marriage to the MPEG-2 format and with its eye-opening price tag? When you compare the launches of the two formats, you come away with the distinct impression that HD DVD looks like a legitimate contender and Blu-ray seems already down for the count. Let the comparisons intensify between Blu-ray and another "theoretically superior" Sony video format: Betamax.

Six weeks ago, in "Everyone Loses in the HD DVD vs. Blu-ray War", I complained about the very fact of the competition between the formats and expressed my frustration that the war would end up draining consumer interest out of the market. Today, after seeing the dust settle from both launches, I get the distinct impression that one format might actually prevail. And prevail quickly.

No offense to either side, but I would welcome that. Because I'm ready for prices to start falling and titles to start really flowing. I'm ready for high-definition DVD to become a stable??if not universally supported??consumer force. And although I feel Betamax (even though it was frustratingly proprietary, thanks to Sony) was a superior video format and got the sour end of the deal back in the mid-1980s, I'm not seeing any real video differences between the two HD formats (according to a large sampling of online reviews).

Oh, it's about to be a carnival of HD riches in my living room. Before I make a purchase in the HD DVD war zone, I'll be taking the plunge into Xbox 360 gaming and getting a taste of Xbox Live networked gaming. For this tech enthusiast, one of the more enticing uses of home networking will be to interact with fellow gamers around the world and see just how terribly awful I am at all the games that I think I'm good at.

Speaking of gaming, Sony will be debuting its PlayStation 3 in about two months. And guess what? It's got a Blu-ray drive. When I was buying my TV over the weekend, I overheard two separate customers informing salespeople that they would be buying the PlayStation 3 largely for the Blu-ray functionality. How about you?

Will a game system be yet another deciding factor in the HD video war?

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