Samsung's widely anticipated announcement of a dual-format Blu-ray and HD DVD player could spell a truce in the format war between high definition formats.

To date, the two formats have been roughly neck and neck overall but the trend shows that Blu-ray could be gaining more of a foothold. If this continues, then dual format players could be a lifeline for HD DVD, even though it could effectively prolong the battle.

The market is more established for both formats in the US. According to Nielsen VideoScan data (released via Sony), cumulative sales for Blu-ray Disc titles have reached 844,000 as of 18 March, while HD DVD totalled 708,600. The figures also suggest that by that week Blu-ray was outselling HD DVD by a ratio of 9:2.

At first HD DVD was more popular, due in large part to the comparatively lower price of the hardware, either as standalone machines or through the Xbox 360 add-on. Now that Sony's PS3 has arrived with built-in Blu-ray Disc compatibility, a reasonably 'cheap' BD player is available.

The situation in the UK and Europe is less clear so far and, given the hazy position with regional coding, there's likely to be an amount of transatlantic importing going on. Standalone HD DVD players have only been on sale since December and the PS3 was delayed until the end of March.

Toshiba claims that it sees a healthy future for its HD DVD format. By February 2007, it says, 200,000 devices were sold worldwide and it estimates that so far, on average, consumers will buy 28 HD DVD titles in a year.

However, after launching with a lacklustre choice of titles, big blockbuster movies have now arrived on Blu-ray. For example, Casino Royale was released in mid-March and reportedly shifted 100,000 units in its first fortnight. With most major studios supporting both high-def formats or just Blu-ray, it's easy to see why Sony is bullish about the latest sales figures - though it has waited until now to emphasise them.

A closer look at the disc sales, though, suggests that neither format is a runaway success just yet, with some releases able to reach the US top ten on less than 1,000 sales in a week , so we are still talking about thousands of sales rather than hundreds of thousands for conventional DVD.

Ian Calcutt