New DVD format gets approval in Japan

The DVD Forum, an international association of electronics makers and motion picture studios, has approved a new technical standard for next generation DVDs. The standard, called HD DVD, is based on technology proposed by Toshiba and NEC.

The approval represents a set-back for the Blue-Ray disc format advocated by Sony, Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic), and Philips Electronics of the Netherlands. However, the forum approval does not mean Blu-Ray production won’t proceed to the marketplace anyway.

HD DVDs will be able to record five times the amount of information of current DVDs. Today’s DVD technology allows recording of about two hours of conventional analog TV programming while the new format can record more than two hours of digital TV programming.

The competing Blu-Ray format discs can store more than three hours of digital programming. However, Toshiba and NEC argued that their format can be priced about 20 percent lower than a comparable Blu-ray disc because the assembly lines for current DVDs can be adapted to make HD-DVD discs. That cannot be done with Blu-ray discs.

The DVD Forum approval only covers read-only DVD players. The manufacturers will need similar approval for rewritable DVD recorders.

NEC plans to launch new models of personal computers with the HD DVD technology in the fall of 2005. Toshiba also said it may sell notebook computers with HD DVD drives in the future, and plans to start marketing an HD DVD recorder sometime next year.

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