The DVD Forum has started to implement region coding into the HD-DVD standard - after the first discs and players have already shipped.
The Forum was initially praised for not dividing up the world in the same way that DVD has - meaning that consumers are free to import foreign films without restriction. However, for an unknown reason (although we suspect that the reason is pressure from the major film studios), the Forum is now looking at ways to bring region coding back in, although there are no details yet of exactly how it will look to divide the regions.
The DVD standard has six main regions that relate to geographic location. The Blu-Ray standard has just three, with Asia and America being lumped in together.
There could be a major problem for those early adopters who have bought the first wave of HD-DVD players - which don't have any capacity to handle region coding. Will they simply be unable to play region coded discs, or will there be an upgrade available for the firmware? The first Toshiba players are basically Pentiums running Linux, so there must be some capacity there.
It was all looking so sweet and rosy for HD-DVD until this came along. It has a price advantage over Blu-ray in terms of players - $500 for the first Toshiba units, whereas the first Sony Blu-ray players will be $1000. It will have had a two month head start and, until now, was the obvious choice for hardcore film fans who like to get their movies from around the world. The DVD Forum has knocked one of its advantages on the head - will you now go for HD, Blu-ray, or not bother at all? Let us know over in the forums.