Microsoft and Intel back HD-DVD format

Microsoft and Intel announced that they are backing the HD-DVD format developed by Toshiba over the Blu-ray standard touted by Sony, Matsushita Electric, Samsung and others.

Microsoft announced in June that it would work with Toshiba to develop HD DVD players. Now, Microsoft and Intel say they will develop software and chips that will allow personal computers to play the next-generation DVDs from Toshiba.

The companies said they had not ruled out incorporating Blu-ray technology in their operating systems and on their chips in the future. But they are convinced that as of now, the HD-DVD format discs can be produced more cheaply and more quickly than the Blu-ray discs, and are therefore likely to become the dominant technology, the New York Times reported.

For the last two years, Microsoft and Intel have been careful not to alienate either camp in the format battle because they sell software and components to companies on each side. They also hoped that the electronics makers and Hollywood studios developing the formats would reach a compromise.

But the major Hollywood studios are now split between the formats, and electronics companies on both sides plan to start selling next-generation DVD players as early as Christmas. Sony also plans to include Blu-ray technology in its new PlayStation 3 game console to be released next spring.

As the format standoff has deepened, demand for the current generation of DVDs and DVD players has slowed, alarming Hollywood studios, which have come to depend heavily on disc sales. The studios, as well as electronics makers and computer manufacturers, expect high-definition discs to restart sales growth. But the lack of a resolution over the future format has slowed the changeover.

The decision to support Toshiba’s HD-DVD format also creates a huge split in the PC industry. Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Sun Microsystems — among the world’s largest PC makers, are part of the Blu-ray group. Their computers, assuming they include Microsoft and Intel products, will be capable of playing HD-DVD discs. But if they want their machines to play Blu-ray discs, they may have to find a third-party to design software for them. Also endorsing Blu-ray is Apple Computer, creator of the Macintosh platform.

Also last week, Toshiba said it would delay its launch of next-generation HD DVD players in the U.S. market to around February or March 2006, revising its prior plan for a year-end start date. The company said it will introduce HD DVD players in the Japanese market by year-end.

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