Rivals unable to agree on unified DVD format standard for HD

The two sides in the competition for an HD-DVD standard have given up hope they can forge an agreement for a single unified format. Now, both sides are proceeding with plans for competing product launches in 2006.

Frank Simonis, a spokesman for the Blu-ray standard, told Reuters last week Blu-ray is preparing for a 2006 product launch. Now, the same launch window appears likely for the rival HD-DVD format.

HD-DVD’s chief backer, Toshiba said that it may delay the planned year-end 2005 launch of its next-generation HD-DVD players, potentially undermining its presumed advantage as the first supplier to put such machines on the market. Toshiba added, however, that any change in its launch schedule would be intended to maximize potential demand for the new products. The manufacturer said it remains committed to the HD-DVD format as the next-generation DVD technology.

Just yesterday, Microsoft and Intel announced they will support the HD-DVD format. Having the two leading manufacturers of computer technology pledging to support the HD-DVD format is a key boost to the Toshiba-backed technology. While Microsoft voiced support for the HD-DVD standard, the company said it would not preclude its systems from playing Blu-ray DVDs with third-party software.

Toshiba and Sony, leading rival camps, have waged a three-year battle to have their incompatible standards adopted for the new DVDs, which promise much greater capacity for HD movies. Toshiba, along with NEC and Sanyo Electric, have been promoting HD-DVD, while Sony and Matsushita Electric Industrial, the maker of Panasonic brand products, have been developing Blu-ray.

Failure to reach agreement on a common unified HD format for DVD is a major set-back for the Hollywood studios and home video industry, which want to avoid consumer resistance to incompatible formats and equipment. Business users may balk as well, opting with consumers to stick with current standard definition DVD technology for many years into the future.

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