If you want HD movies on the cheap, Best Buy is clearancing the Xbox 360 HD-DVD Player for $49.99. Microsoft promises they will maintain the full warranty on the drive, and you can use it with a PC, too.
While the future of HD-DVD movie production is still unclear, it may make a comeback for the next year or two if everyone adopts these drives quickly. Movie companies probably won’t pass up the chance to sell HD-DVDs to millions of customers… and even if they do, old HD-DVD movies will certainly be cheaper than their Blu-Ray counterparts (which will have to become new releases now that HD-DVD has been discontinued).
It’s a bit sad, as I recall the monumental effort Microsoft undertook to deliver HD-DVD on Xbox 360. The team had to re-optimize millions of lines of Windows code to eek out the necessary performance gains running on PowerPC hardware. Unlike Mac OS X, Windows code is heavily rooted in x86, and thus, not platform independent. Hence the $49.99 clearance… Microsoft would rather recoup some of the massive losses of these drives.
Update: I decided to buy one myself… at $49.99 it is just too good of a deal to pass up. As a bit of a consolation, you get a $29.99 Media Center Remote in the box, so you can write it off as only $20 for the HD-DVD player.
And, for $20, what a deal. The build quality on this unit is simply amazing… it is as high quality as the rest of the Xbox 360 console, even better in some aspects.
Hopefully, movie studios will see the surge in HD-DVD sales and continue to put out movies until the holiday buying season (at least on hybrid DVD + HD DVD discs). I don’t think this will be enough to convince Toshiba to get back into HD-DVD production (though, anything is possible until they sign on with Blu-Ray). Time will tell, if there is a mad rush on HD-DVD at the $50 to $80 price point, Toshiba could see re-engineering the platform as a strong potential…
… I wouldn’t sign on to Blu-Ray unless I asked my engineering team about the possibility.