$100 HD DVD player: a sign of things to come?

A HD DVD player for less than $100? When will we start seeing prices like this in the UK?

In the run-up to Christmas, US superstore chain Wal-Mart is touting HD DVD players for less than $100.

The Toshiba HD-A2 HD DVD player will be offered for just $98.97 (£47.61) at Wal-Mart stores across the US this Friday, 2 November, Engadget reported.

Raising the stakes

It's the latest move in the increasingly aggressive HD war, which has seen salvos of sales stats between the Blu-ray and HD DVD camps. What neither camp seems to realise though is that sales figures actually don't matter. That's not how consumers make a buying decision.

A $100 HD DVD player versus a $400 Blu-ray player? That's going to be a no-brainer for many US shoppers. To truly compete against Blu-ray, HD DVD must shift more hardware units. Knocking the price down in this way certainly gets people's attention. It's easily the deal of the year.

For us here in the UK, HD DVD and Blu-ray still seems to be a mystery to many, so this sort of offer won't hit us any time soon. Education about the two formats is poor and people are still managing the switch to digital TV, without worrying too much about high-definition.

The UK market is competitive. Toshiba's 1080p-friendly HD-EP10 HD DVD player in the UK (online prices are around £240) just has the edge over Sony's 40GB PlayStation 3 with Blu-ray (£299). The 720p Toshiba HD-E1 is even more accessible, available online for around £160.

A sign of things to come?

What's important, perhaps, is that the Walmart deal in the US is a sign of things to come. Might we see Toshiba crash the price of the HD-E1 to less than £100 to drive sales? It's certainly possible. If not, the HD-EP10 and PS3 will battle it out for the allegiance of HD TV owners.

It does show that, in a year or so, we'll be seeing HD DVD and Blu-ray players in supermarkets like Tesco and Asda, who are currently flogging standard DVD players for under £30.

With the high-def world still very much split into two camps, a price war can only be good news for consumers. Blu-ray might well have the headline-grabbing sales figures and Hollywood support. But HD DVD is proving almost impossible to kill.