Toshiba's HD DVD format could emerge the surprise winner from this year's Christmas sales - sales that are seen as crucial to the long-term survival of both HD DVD and its arch-rival Blu-ray.

Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg says HD DVD could make strong inroads in the US thanks to cheap player prices, a strong line-up of titles - including Heroes and Star Trek box sets - as well as a crises of confidence in the Blu-ray camp.

"Note to Sony: when you call the format war a stalemate, most folks interpret that as you're losing," Gartenberg says.

Gartenberg's comments follow statements made in an interview by Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer. He said he wished he could turn back time to seal a deal with the HD DVD camp, and so bring about a unified high definition standard. Stringer also said it was no longer important who won the HD format war - "It doesn't mean as much as all that" - another sign of Sony's lack of confidence.

Warner plumps for both formats

Earlier this month, Warner Bros was embroiled in a PR hoo-hah after one executive spoke out about his company's support for Blu-ray and how it was watching Q4 sales before finally deciding to jump. Dan Silverberg, vice president for Warner Home Video's high definition arm told attendees at a Blu-ray festival:

"One thing that may be changing is our strategy. When both formats launched and hardware prices were high, we made a decision to support both formats and let the consumer decide.

"But now that hardware pricing is affordable for both Blu-ray and HD DVD, it appears consumers no longer want to decide - so the notion of staying in two formats for the duration is something we are re-evaluating now that we are in the fourth quarter."

However his comments were immediately dismissed by Jim Noonan, a senior vice president for Warner Home Video. Noonan told High Def Digest that Warners remained committed to both formats.

However Noonan also admitted that Warners' plans for a hyrid Blu-ray / HD DVD format called Total HD had been shelved.