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Toshiba, NEC Rally Support for `HD-DVD’

New York – Beginning a campaign to win DVD Forum recognition for the blue-laser-based high definition DVD system, Toshiba and NEC gave members of the press a demonstration of a new and improved version of their proposal at a press conference here.

The companies also announced the formal name for their system is the ‘HD DVD’ format, with ‘HD’ alternately referring to either high definition in consumer video applications or high density in PC data applications. It previously had been given the working name Advanced Optical Disc (AOD).

After failing to receive the necessary votes of the DVD Forum steering committee earlier this year, the companies hope to generate enough enthusiasm for the format to win forum recognition after the transition of a number of steering committee members early in 2004. HD DVD will compete in the market with the rival HD optical disc format Blu-ray Disc, which is backed by nine companies including Sony, Matsushita, Thomson and others, but has not been positioned as a DVD-based optical disc platform.

If approved as a DVD Forum standard, Toshiba executives said they hope to have a product ready for launch in 2005.

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 at the press event, who also included disc replicators Cinram and Memory-Tech, said the advantages of their 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 product the media from finger prints 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 the future — won’t require caddies.

Toshiba technology fellow Hisashi Yamada said Toshiba and NEC favor the use of the MPEG 4-based H.264 advanced video CODEC for use with the system, and are closely monitoring the licensing terms that are yet to be announced by the MPEG Licensing Authority.

The DVD Forum is also awaiting licensing terms as it evaluates various compression schemes for next generation optical disc CODEC’s.

The HD-DVD format calls for a 405nm wavelength, and will allow for 15GB of storage on a single sided, single-layer disc, or 30GB on a single-sided dual-layer disc. This would accommodate approximately 2 hours or 4 hours of high definition video, respectively.

Other areas being stressed by HD-DVD backers is a 128-bit advanced encryption standard with key revocation and other anti-piracy measures considered critical by motion picture studios.

Cinram and Memory-Tech exeuctives added that mass production of HD-DVDs has been confirmed.

Rewritable HD-DVD discs would allow for 20GB on a single-layer, or between 35-40GB on a dual-layer disc, according to preliminary estimates. This compares with 4.7GB and 8.54GB, respectively, for DVD-ROM disc.