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Toshiba Unveils Two HD-DVD Disc Options

Toshiba and its longtime DVD ally Warner Home Video (WHV) announced at MediaTech Expo 2005 two new types of HD DVD prerecorded discs, including a triple-layer version which will bring additional capacity to the blue-laser optical disc format.

The news came amid rumors from Japan that Toshiba and Sony were in talks to develop a unified hybrid high-definition blue-laser optical disc system, possibly using a Sony-developed disc structure and Toshiba software and copy protection.

WHV told media replicators prior to the Las Vegas expo that it supports the new HD DVD disc options which include a triple-layer, high-capacity 45GB disc, and a double-sided, double-layer hybrid disc that can store 30GB of high-definition content on one side, with a DVD 9 of standard-definition content on the other.

According to Toshiba, the ROM disc uses a single-sided, triple-layer structure. Each layer stores 15GBs of information. Triple-layer discs are produced using back-to-back bonding of a 0.6mm-thick dual-layer disc and a single-layer 0.6mm disc.

In the process, a single-layer disc is first produced, using the same process as for HD DVD-ROM. Next, the second layer is formed on the first layer using a one-time polycarbonate stamper, the same process used for the DVD18 disc, the double-sided DVD disc that has dual-layers on both sides. Finally, the single-layer 0.6mm disc is bonded to the dual-layer disc, using standard technology.

Toshiba’s new double-sided, dual-layer HD DVD-ROM/DVD-ROM hybrid disc bonds together a 0.6mm thick dual-layer HD DVD-ROM disc with 30GB capacity, and a 0.6-mm thick dual-layer DVD-ROM disc with an 8.5GB capacity.

Toshiba said the new disc was designed to satisfy consumers, retailers, disc producers and Hollywood studios by allowing consumers to view DVD content on standard DVD players and, while offering the capability of viewing the same content in high-definition using the same disc, after the purchase of an HD-DVD player.

Content providers can then help eliminate multiple SKUs for retailers, or to produce new classes of DVD products, including discs that carry a feature movie, while using the DVD layer to store promotional videos or audio content, including the movie soundtrack, Toshiba said.

So far, Toshiba has received DVD Forum standardization for an HD/DVD-9 disc, a 15GB version (single-layer, single-sided), a 30GB disc (double-layer, single-sided), and a hybrid (double-layer, single-sided) HD-DVD 15GB on one layer, with 4.7GB standard-definition on the other.

“Warner Home Video welcomes the announcement of the new discs as they reinforce an ideal next-generation HD solution, offering a strong combination of superior performance, proven cost efficiency, large storage capacity and compatibility with current DVD,” the company said in a prepared statement.

Warner Home Video conducted a preliminary consumer research study which showed that “interest in the hybrid disc is very high, with 77 percent of consumers being very interested in purchasing the hybrid HD DVD products. Among consumers who do not yet own HDTV, but intend to purchase HDTV televisions in the next 12 months, this interest increases to 89 percent. This supports the belief that consumers are attracted to a product that is future proof.

“HD DVD now provides a superb range of real-world consumer solutions, allowing the accommodation of two generations of content — standard definition and HD DVD — on a single disc,” said Marsha King, WHV general manager. “The new suite of discs further broadens the spectrum of HD-DVD products, continuing to address the need for lower cost and maximum consumer benefits while delivering various levels of capacity for content owners.”

Meanwhile, a WHV spokesperson, said her company’s announcement of support for the new HD DVD disc formats was not influenced by reports out of Japan on recent developments in the blue-laser disc unification efforts. Warner has intellectual property interests in the 0.6mm disc structure standardized for the DVD format, which would be preserved in the HD DVD format.

Representatives for Toshiba America Consumer Products declined to comment on the alleged discussions in Japan, but a Reuters report Monday said Toshiba officials in Japan had denied that unification talks have led to an agreement to use Sony’s disc format in such a system.