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Toshiba rumored to quit HD DVD as Wal-Mart pulls support

The conflict between high-definition disc formats is rapidly drawing to a close, as Wal-Mart is the latest store to back Blu-ray over HD DVD and Toshiba is reportedly poised to withdraw its format from the market in the near future.

Remaining support for HD DVD began to unravel on Friday morning when the Hollywood Reporter cited a source which claims Toshiba will shutter its HD DVD efforts "soon," with an announcement potentially due within weeks.

The apparently reluctant concession would follow weeks of steep decline in support for the optical disc standard, which began with Warner Bros.' switch to Blu-ray as its exclusive HD movie format just ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Since then, Best Buy and Netflix have both chosen Blu-ray as their de facto choice for HD movies, relegating HD DVD to second-tier status and threatening to discontinue it entirely in the case of Netflix.

Several independent movie studios have also followed Warner's lead in opting for Blu-ray, with only Paramount and Universal now left as HD DVD supporters.

Just hours later, however, the likelihood of an HD DVD resurgence was dimmed even further by an official announcement by Wal-Mart that it would focus solely on Blu-ray. A statement issued by the big-box retailer on Friday revealed that the company would reorganize shelf space at all its Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores within 30 days to promote Blu-ray alone. HD DVD products will exit the company's product channel entirely by June.

Wal-Mart's decision is anticipated to be especially damaging to HD DVD's prospects, as the nationwide chain is often regarded as the single largest video sales outlet in the US and is sometimes cited as a potential obstacle to widespread adoption of online movie downloads through its influence over movie studios' pricing.

And while Toshiba officially remains confident in HD DVD, its frequent partner Microsoft has itself seemingly scaled back its normally vocal endorsement of the beleaguered storage medium, says the Reporter. The Windows developer's technology evangelist for HD DVD, Kevin Collins, has reportedly failed to respond to multiple requests for comments.

Apple has largely kept to the sidelines during the battle between Blu-ray and HD DVD, providing small amounts of support to both camps while declining to build either technology into its Mac range.