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Toshiba Reports HD DVD Demos Set For Autumn

Toshiba will begin the prelaunch of its HD DVD optical disc format this fall by providing retailers with a player they can use to showcase HDTVs during the holiday selling season, but the company has refrained from issuing a definitive date for the sale of such decks to U.S. consumers.

Executives with Toshiba America Consumer Products attending the recent CEDIA Expo, here, demonstrated the HD DVD deck to showgoers in their booth, offering a disc of high-definition movie trailers, which was output in 1,080i format by the player and later up-converted to 1,080p by one of Toshiba’s new 1,080p DLP rear-projection sets.

Jodi Sally, Toshiba’s digital A/V Group marketing VP, said the player which will be offered to dealers for in-store demos starting this fall will carry the model number HD-AX1, and is expected to sell for about $1,000 when it arrives.

Exact feature specifications have still not been released, she said.

Dealers will be issued demo software containing movie clips, trailers and various HD DVD demo programs for in-store play, but studios remain mum on full title release dates.

Product manufacturing on sell-through players will begin by the end of the year, and the first HD DVD players are expected to go on sale in Japan soon after. The date for U.S. deliveries has not been announced, said Mark Knox, advisor to the HD DVD Promotions Group.

Knox said the HD DVD spec still specifies only using the AACS copy protection system for content, unlike the rival Blu-ray Format which recently added to AACS the ROM-Mark and BD+ content-protection systems, swaying FOX to join the Blu-ray camp in the process.

“We have concerns that what [Blu-ray Disc] is adding may not enhance but could potentially comprise the robustness of that security. There’s nothing more needed,” Knox said.

Knox said both parties continue to hold out hope that a unified format agreement will eventually be achieved with the Blu-ray camp, but as this went to press both sides remained ready to move in different directions.