DVD talks stall

The major Japanese electronics manufacturers are trying to reach agreement on a single DVD format for the distribution of HD content
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The presidents of Japanese electronics giants Sony, Toshiba, and Matsushita Electric Industrial will meet to try to break a stalemate in talks over a unified format for next-generation DVD technology, Reuters reported last week

Sony and Toshiba, leading rival camps, have waged a three-year battle to have their new technology standards adopted by the motion picture industry. The winner will have pole position in the multi-billion-dollar markets for HD DVD players, PC drives and optical discs.

The high-level talks offer new hope for negotiations that appeared to have reached an impasse, Reuters said. A senior Toshiba official was quoted by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun as saying one format based on Sony technology would be “extremely difficult.”

Both sides still believe one standard is the best scenario, knowing that a prolonged format battle like the one between VHS and Betamax two decades ago would likely discourage consumers from shifting to advanced discs and stifle the industry’s growth.

Officials from Toshiba, which backs a new DVD technology called HD-DVD, and Sony and Matsushita, which support a rival standard known as Blu-ray, began meeting earlier this year to try and establish a format incorporating technology from both sides.

The negotiations have been leaning toward unifying the formats based on the Blu-ray disc structure. But Toshiba continues to maintain that adopting the HD DVD structure would be more cost efficient because it is closer to the current DVD. Toshiba, the report said, has also been under pressure from parts makers and film studios in the HD DVD camp not to give in.

In recent days, announcements have come from both camps. Toshiba said that it had developed a triple-layer HD DVD disc with data capacity of 45GB, 50 percent more than a previously unveiled version and enough to hold 12 hours of HD movies. Warner Home Video and Universal Studios Home Entertainment both issued statements endorsing Toshiba’s new disc.

On the other side, TDK announced that it has developed a prototype Blu-ray Disc that can store twice as much data, and record it at twice the speed, as existing Blu-ray Discs. The disc can record data at 72Mb/s, double the 36Mb/s rate for current Blu-ray Discs. TDK said it increased the write speed by using a more powerful laser and making some changes to the material of the disc’s recording layer.

At the core of both formats are blue lasers, which have a shorter wavelength than the red lasers used in current DVD equipment, allowing discs to store data at the higher densities needed for HD movies and television.

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