HD-DVD vendors plan compatible products

HD-DVD vendors plan compatible products

The High Definition/High Density-DVD (HD-DVD) next-generation optical disc format has been given a boost with the announcement by Toshiba and NEC that they plan to launch compatible products next year.

Toshiba plans a home player and possibly a recorder while NEC said it plans a drive for use with computers.

At the same event Pony Canyon, Japan’s largest distributor of DVDs, said it planned to release content in the format and named the first eight discs it plans to produce.

The promotional effort aims to push HD-DVD toward victory in what has been until now a one-sided race to become the format of choice for high-definition video content.

To date, demonstrations of HD-DVD have been largely confined to prototype models on show at technical seminars and some events. In contrast recorders based on the competing Blu-ray Disc are already on the market. Sony commercialised the first last year and Matsushita Electric Industrial, better known as Panasonic, put the second on sale in Japan last week.

The HD-DVD group, which is mainly led by Toshiba and NEC, is using the technological differences between the two formats as the basis for its argument that HD-DVD makes more sense than Blu-ray Disc and hopes the entertainment industry, both in Japan and elsewhere, is listening.

The industry was a tough crowd to please, a senior executive advisor to Microsoft, Toshio Yajima, said. But both sides in the format battle know that without the support of movie studios and entertainment companies their respective formats could be dead in the water.

Toshiba and NEC are appealing to the collective wallets of the industry.

Because HD-DVD discs were almost physically identical to current DVD discs, the same production lines could be used to produce both discs, thus saving the expense of building new factories, senior manager of the engineering development department at optical disc maker Memory-Tech, Masato Ootsuka, said.

A pilot line at the company’s factory in Tsukuba, north of Tokyo, could be switched between DVD and HD-DVD in five minutes and production of a dual-layer 30GB HD-DVD disc takes 3.5 seconds, compared to three seconds for a DVD, Ootsuka said. Yields were also above 90 per cent.

Hardware would be cheaper to make because its closeness to DVD means it is less complicated, the companies said.

While Toshiba and NEC wouldn’t comment on the likely price of their first products, chief fellow of technology at Toshiba and also a chairman at the DVD Forum, Hisashi Yamada, said earlier this year that he expected the first players to cost about $US910.

Panasonic’s Blu-ray Disc recorder due on sale this week will cost about $US2730.

With the promotional event in Tokyo and Panasonic’s imminent launch of its Blu-ray Disc player it appears the long-anticipated battle between the two sides is now beginning.

The Blu-ray Disc camp is targeting recording of high-definition programs, but this could hamper it in markets where high-definition programming has yet to take off. The HD-DVD team is seeking victory through the backing of entertainment companies for prerecorded content and hoping users are more interested in watching such content than time-shifting television.

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