Toshiba, Sony Plow Ahead in Next-Gen DVD War

Toshiba disclosed some new details in the past week about its pending marketing push in support of the HD DVD format (while at the same time, indirectly, letting the world know it isn't changing its plans at this stage of the format wars). The company seemed to acknowledge earlier published reports that some of HD DVD's anticipated interactive features will not be available in the first couple of models of the next-gen DVD players set to begin hitting North American store shelves in March.

Meanwhile, the Blu-ray camp has indicated an agreement has been reached on an interim license for the AACS (advanced access content system) scheme that both high-def DVD formats plan to use. This was the lingering big elephant in the room for the Sony camp, and when the dust settles on the ongoing wars (and if Blu-ray should eventually triumph), overcoming this copyright protection issue--that has angered critics--may be seen as the key reason for Sony's success. But the Hollywood Reporter said despite some cautious optimism in the Blu-ray camp, the reported copyright agreement, alas, is only an interim deal for now.

Toshiba's publicity thrust includes a tour of more than three dozen U.S. cities where its new DVD players will be displayed. The marketing expedition began this week at the Electronics Expo in Paramus, N.J. and at the PC Richards store in Manhattan (with appearances on Feb. 21 and Feb. 22, respectively). Boston and Chicago are on tap in coming weeks, before a West Coast tour.

Sony, for its part, separate from its presumed summer launch of Blu-ray products, also will be involved in another marketing campaign soon--for its Sony Reader for e-books. The new product, which reportedly will retail for a few hundred dollars, may face some content restriction hurdles of its own. Whether the Reader (and its new consumer HD camcorder, see next story) proves to be a distraction as it prepares its Blu-ray ramp up is yet to be seen.