HD DVD Delayed; Sigma Designs, Pioneer Team Up on Blu-ray

Sigma Designs will work with Pioneer Corp. on jointly developing what the companies call a "full-featured" Blu-ray DVD player using Sigma's SMP8630 media processors. Pioneer plans to introduce the new Blu-ray DVD player in the first half of 2006.

Blu-ray is increasingly perceived as the frontrunner in the two-way battle to gain market dominance over HD-worthy, blue laser disc technology. Its sole competitor is HD DVD. The two formats are incompatible. Pioneer said in a statement its Blu-ray player will allow consumers to record HD programming from cable, satellite or terrestrial antenna. Blu-ray discs will allow storage of 30-50 GB for HD video and other content. Sigma Designs plans to create the chipset for the next-gen optical product.

Meanwhile, Toshiba this week suddenly announced its planned introduction of HD DVD players for Japan will be delayed from its already-revised January 2006 launch until later. Toshiba is reportedly attributing the delay to the unavailability of Advanced Access Content System (AACS) licensing. The HD DVD Forum had adopted AACS copyright management as an integral part of its format. It was the second delay of HD DVD's launch date in Asia and the United States; the original launch had been set for this month, and then delayed until next month by Toshiba in September.

Toshiba will not launch its HD DVD products until the AACS is made final, according to a company statement. Given HD DVD's lack of key endorsements in recent months at the expense of Blu-ray, whether this is a timely stall tactic or just a mere delay in the overall launch proceedings for Toshiba is yet to be determined. Some incompatibility and technical concerns among both formats, including copyright management, already had been addressed by Blu-ray at the behest of Blu-ray proponent Hewlett-Packard, among others.

But HP and some other proponents are not completely satisfied with Blu-ray's lack of cooperation in helping HD DVD backers switch rather than fight, and now they remain more neutral toward both formats.

While chief backer Sony says it still plans a Blu-ray launch for next spring, it has indicated it will unveil new launch details next month at CES2006 in Las Vegas. Stay tuned.