By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Toshiba and NEC formally announced here that the DVD Forum, a multi-industry association that sanctions standards based on the DVD optical disc system, has approved the two companies' standard for a next-generation DVD system they call HD-DVD.
The Forum approval, which covers a read-only version of the HD-DVD format, gives greater credibility to the blue-laser-based system developed by Toshiba and NEC, and underscores the format's compatibility with current DVD discs and equipment, including disc replication systems.
Specifications for a rewritable HD-DVD format still need Forum approval, according to reports from Japan.
The approval comes after a first-round defeat in the DVD Forum Steering Committee last summer. The approval reportedly was helped this time around by additional votes of support and modifications to voting rules.
The decision gives the HD-DVD system a boost in its competition with the rival Blu-ray disc format, which is not based on the DVD format but is advocated by a group of powerful consumer electronics firms, including Matsushita, Philips and Sony, which are DVD Forum members.
Developers of both the HD-DVD and the Blu-ray Disc formats said that the next-generation optical discs will be able to record five times the amount of information of current DVDs, making them suitable for high definition source material.
Toshiba executives said at a recent technology demonstration in New York that they hoped to have a product ready for launch in 2005. NEC plans to launch new models of personal computers with the technology in the fall of 2005.
Toshiba will demonstrate the system at its booth during CES next month.
Supporters said the HD-DVD format has been designed 'to keep maximum compatibility with current DVD' discs and hardware, including read-only, recordable and rewritable disc formats.
HD-DVD backers including disc replicators Cinram and Memory-Tech have said the advantages of the HD-DVD format compared to the rival Blu-ray Disc include the use of two bonded discs with a data layer 0.6mm below the surface. This will allow for more cost-effective read/write optics, and will enable current manufacturing equipment to be used for HD-DVD.
The HD-DVD discs also will not require caddies to protect the media from fingerprints or scratches. This would enable easy integration with PCs, particularly slim-drives required for notebooks. Blu-ray disc backers also claim that their prerecorded media — and possibly rewritable media in thefuture — won't require caddies.
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