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HD-DVD Backers Promise Product Bow in 2005

2 Aug, 2004 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Toshiba Corp. and NEC Corp., two principal backers of the next-generation HD-DVD format, said they would launch compatible hardware products beginning next year.

The announcement, during last week's three-day HD-DVD showcase in Tokyo for the Japanese entertainment industry, coincided with reports that Microsoft would include the DVD format in Longhorn, its next-generation Windows operating platform.

A U.S.-based Microsoft spokesperson wouldn't confirm the report and declined further comment.

Pony Canyon, Japan's largest distributor of DVD titles, at the showcase said it would begin releasing DVD titles in HD-DVD next year; Japanese disc replicator Memory-Tech Corp. announced the completion of an HD-DVD line that it claims can produce 720,000 discs a month.

“HD-DVD will further encourage the convergence of PC and audio-visual products,” said Hiroshi Gokan, executive GM of NEC's computers storage products operations unit.

The arrival of HD-DVD product occurs as proponents of rival next-generation disc — Blu-ray Disc — proclaim the imminent launch of a 50GB disc with 67 percent greater capacity than an HD-DVD disc.

Thirteen hardware and software manufacturers — including Sony, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Royal Philips Electronics, Samsung Electronics and content provider Columbia TriStar — support the Blu-ray format.

A Sony spokesperson said companies in the Blu-ray Disc group have separate timetables for release of hardware and software products in the new format.

“Sony has already launched recordable versions of Blu-ray product in Japan,” said spokesperson Mack Araki. “We have a very strong cross-section of companies from the technology and media industries [in the Blu-ray] group. When you think of the presence of those companies in each market, it's a pretty powerful group backing the format.”

Blu-ray backers have said Blu-ray's extra capacity is critical to the future success of the home entertainment business. Benjamin Feingold, president of Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, earlier this year said the company would release all home video products in the Blu-ray format by the end of 2005 and believes failure by the industry to adopt the format would seriously undercut content creators' ability to sell movies and video games.

Both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc use a blue laser for superior picture quality rather than the red one used in the current DVD format. HD-DVD costs less to make due to a similar manufacturing process to DVD, which means less overhead charges for replicators.

Blu-ray advocates say the lower capacity of HD-DVD disc is shortsighted in an era of extended features, commentaries and bonus material.

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