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Another dispute brews in race for next-generation DVD format

The heated debate continues in the struggle to define a new generation of DVD technology. A new dispute broke out within the Blu-ray camp last week when group members, led by Sony and Panasonic, refused to go along with a technology requested by Hewlett-Packard, one of its leading members.

Last month, HP threatened to quit the Blu-ray group if other members didn’t approve certain software and copy protection additions to its format. The software HP wants has already been adopted into the rival HD-DVD standard developed by Toshiba and others.

Reuters reported that HP favors a technology called mandatory managed copy that allows users to legally copy DVDs and store the digital file on a home network. The other desired technology, known as iHD, allows for interactive features that will be included in Vista, the next generation operating system being developed by Microsoft. iHD is also supported by HD-DVD.

Last week, the spokesman of the Blu-ray group, Andy Parsons, told Reuters that his group would back mandatory managed copy, but not iHD. Instead, he said the group would launch next spring using Java, a competitive technology developed by Sun Microsystems. While the Blu-ray group said it was willing to consider HP’s request for iHD, it was unwilling to make the changes to its standard if it meant delaying the introduction of new Blu-ray products next year, Parsons said.

The decision may leave HP, the nation’s No. 2 computer manufacturer, splitting support between the two incompatible DVD technologies.

Microsoft and Intel both support HD-DVD. HP has said its move reflected its desire to ensure that customers are not forced to choose between competing formats for DVDs. However, Maureen Weber, general manager of personal storage at HP, said last week that if Blu-ray remains committed to its stance, HP might cease its exclusive Blu-ray support. She said HP could support both HD-DVD and Blu-ray, if a satisfactory resolution is not reached.

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