Given none of our TVs here in the UK can take the HD signal, Andy, I wouldn't worry yourself over it.
I don't think anyone jumped the gun as far as the DVD spec went. It's been a huge success and will continue to be so for many many years to come. Recorable DVD players are becoming disgustingly cheap compared to what they cost some twelve months ago. DVD R players will mark one of the final nails in the VHS/VCR coffin.
I am sure many tire of my always saying this, but the biggest problem I see in HD DVD happening anytime soon is the fact that UK/Europe have no intention of going HD. They're happy with DVB which is nothing more than standard PAL resolution (thats the limit our TVs can take anyway, even if you want to import HD DVD or DVHS software you'd need a decent CRT projector to output 1080i). I'm always going on about this as it frustrates me that England typically took a quick route into digital broadcasting that will ultimately put us in the slow lane as usual.
It's true that DVD had two years of solid sailing in the US before it properly reached UK shores, and one could argue that the same could happen for HD DVD, that it'd just be a delay in reaching other countries... but, given how popular 16:9 TVs are here, and how popular the likes of Sky Digital have been, the entire country would have to embrace purchasing new 16:9 TVs that would take the HD signal, and thats going to be one tough job.
If studios want it to be a product launched with outright intent to appeal to the mass market, it's got a big hurdle to cross if a majority as big as Europe has no wish to adopt Hi Def. It pains me to say it, but it's fine that the studios are discussing it now, but I've always felt a global HD standard needs to be set before anything else, that way we can put PAL/NTSC behind us the world over.
The best way to promote HD DVD early is to promote it like Laserdisc, but I am not sure the studios would want to go back to $30+ MSRPs...etc. HD DVD starting as a niche thing sooner would help interest grow, but I don't even want to see it start sooner as a niche format if they are going to go with a questionable encoding format.