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New HD-DVD Technology on the Way

7 Apr, 2003 By: David Ward

In what could be an interesting twist on the road to high-definition DVD, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Pixonics Inc. is set to unveil what it terms an affordable “forward- and backward-compatible” high-definition DVD technology solution at this week's National Association of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas.

Former Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment executive Paul Culberg heads up Pixonics and said the company's HD technology is such an elegant solution for the migration to HD that it may eventually appear not only in DVD players but also cable set-top boxes and other broadcast devices.

Unlike blue-ray HD technology from Sony and others that requires an entirely new laser, Pixonics is a 1.5-megabit enhancement stream on top of the base DVD stream, which is 6 megabits on average. That means the hardware maker can easily build 1920 X 1080p high-definition resolution into players at only “incremental” cost simply by building it into existing DVD processors.

But while he's in talks with DVD chipmakers, Culberg admitted the key to Pixonics' success will likely be support from the content community in Hollywood. He added many of the studios have already expressed some early interest, in part because the addition of Pixonics high definition to discs can be done fairly quickly. “There is no additional cost in authoring, and there is no additional tinkering with the manufacturing line, so there should be no additional cost there,” he said.

“It provides the content owners with the versatility to put out a separate [HD-enhanced] SKU or put out a single SKU that will play on existing DVD players and also play high definition on new DVD players,” Culberg said. “As opposed to locking them into blue-ray, which is a separate SKU, this will give them the ability to do it either way.”

He added that Pixonics' message to both sellthrough and rental retailers will be that this is an HD solution that is both simple and compelling. “The questions consumers will ask is, ‘Will the new software play on my current hardware, and will the new hardware play my current software?’ Culberg said. “And the answer to both those questions is yes.”

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