from renowned polling firm Harris Interactive has put the cat among the Blu-ray pigeons by claiming that 11% of US homes now own an HD-DVD (yes, HD-DVD) player, compared to 7% which own a Blu-ray player. If true this would be great, if inexplicable, news to Toshiba, which, as its major proponent, abandoned HD-DVD technology more than a year ago after Warner famously jumped ship to join the Blu-ray camp
I doubt that even Toshiba will give much credence to the Harris research, however much it would love to. Quite where the 12 million HD-DVD players supposedly connected to American TV sets have come from is unexplained in the Harris survey: presumably some mystery factory in the Chinese hinterland has been churning them out and shipping them via newly discovered shipping routes (past the melting icebergs north of Russia, perhaps) and unbeknownst to the rest of the world.
There is a serious message from these clearly erroneous results, however (for the record, much less than 1% of US homes currently have an HD-DVD device of any description, and that percentage is falling). They once again demonstrate how difficult it is to get accurate answers about technology from consumer surveys. Years ago, before HDTV sets or services had been launched in Europe, we used to include questions about HDTV ownership and interest in our user surveys, and without fail we found at least a few percentage of people who thought, for whatever reason, that they already owned and were watching HDTV.
And why should we blame consumers for the confusion? Even as someone who follows the industry on a day-to-day basis, I try to keep my “ordinary consumer” hat on stand-by. Listening in on discussions between salesmen and customers on the retail floor is always an eye-opener, and I symphathise with both sides. Why should either customers or shop staff be expected to learn the complex language of the technology industry? If the store is demonstrating an HD-capable TV alongside an upscaling DVD player, the images could look pretty good, and why would I, as an ordinary customer, not want to describe what I’ve seen as “HD DVD”?
So a question in a survey which asks about “HD DVD players” will inevitably be interpreted in many different ways. I suspect there are even Blu-ray Disc player owners who, if asked in the right (or wrong) way, would say they owned an “HD DVD player”. The thing play “DVDs”, and it plays in high definition. Seems to make sense to me… It’s not as if most people had ever even heard of HD-DVD (the Toshiba standard). In spite of the hype surrounding the whole standards war within the technology industry, I believe it failed to interest or concern the majority of the population. So why should they have a problem using the same term however they please?
So the real problem for the Blu-ray camp is not the numbers from the Harris survey – everyone knows they are simply wrong. It is the fact that consumers thought they were saying the right thing, and are clearly thoroughly confused by the whole world of HDTV, discs, formats, standards and terminology. It’s time to stop blaming consumers for being confused simply because Blu-ray still hasn’t got its message across effectively.
Client Reading: Digital Media Devices Global Market Report