This should be the final year for the high-def format war.. So, what's next?

After Warner Bros.' endorsement of Blu-ray shortly before the Consumer Electronics Show, many analysts have said Blu-ray will be the ultimate winner in its high-def disc format war against HD DVD.

But how much longer will the war go on? And, what will happen before it comes to an end -- assuming that it does?

Here's my prediction for what's likely to transpire in the high-def format war in 2008:

1.The HD DVD Surge
Toshiba said today that it will slash prices on HD DVD players and expand its marketing campaign. Clearly, the format's leading supporter is trying to show the studios and other industry players that it's still a competitive battle.

However, in part because of the negative press from CES (thanks to Warner Bros), relatively few consumers will bite on the lower prices due to fears that they will purchase a soon-to-be obsolete format.

2. Toshiba & Sony Will Begin Peace Talks
While awaiting sales results from the first quarter, Toshiba and Sony (Blu-ray's leading supporter) will begin informal negotiations for establishing a single format. With five major studios behind it (compared to HD DVD's two), Sony has the leverage here, but it wants to bring this battle to an end ASAP. Consequently, it will offer Toshiba a (small) slice of future profits -- and (smaller) compensation for past losses.

3. The Studios Bring Down the Hammer
Paramount and Universal -- the last two studios that back HD DVD exclusively -- will give Toshiba an opportunity to demonstrate its sales prowess in the first quarter.

However, after the first quarter numbers start to come in, the two studios will announce that they will support Blu-ray -- or, at least, release titles in both formats for an indefinite period of time.

4. Toshiba-Sony Talks Heat Up
Reading the tea leaves from Hollywood -- and the sales reports -- Toshiba will get more serious in its negotiations with Sony. The two companies -- along with their supporters -- will start to finalize a peace treaty.

5. Microsoft Jumps Ship
Shortly before a peace treaty is announced, Microsoft, a leading HD DVD supporter, will try to steal its thunder by announcing that it will support Blu-ray in its XBox 360 gaming console. Microsoft does not want to look like it supported a loser, which, of course, it did.

6. The Agreement Is Announced
Sometime over the summer, Sony and Toshiba will hold a press conference announcing that they have agreed on a single high-def disc format.

Within minutes, several technology analysts and reporters will proclaim that the high-def disc is dead -- and that downloads from companies like Apple are the future.

They will be wrong, as usual.

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