DVD Battle Hard To Quit

At the same time that they may be working toward a single solution for the next-generation DVD video disc, Sony and Toshiba appear to be advancing their own, separate solutions and downplaying a blending of the technologies.

Industry analysts indicate that both companies — and backers which include other technology, content, and manufacturing companies — are aware of the need to deliver a single solution to avoid a market mess similar to what occurred when both the VHS and Beta video cassette formats were advanced.

However, both companies and their backers have much invested in the different formats and are showing that they may still be willing to roll the dice.

Toshiba this week dispelled rumors the two formats were being forged together and also announced its HD DVD is now capable of storing 45 gigabytes or 12 hours of high-definition video on a single disc — bringing it up to the capacity of Sony’s Blu-ray, which previously had a storage advantage.

“I’m sure everyone wants to work together as long as working together means you support my format,” Jupiter Research vice president Michael Gartenberg told TechNewsWorld. “Both companies understand the importance of being able to control the standard.”

Combine or Conflict

Despite a fierce fight to promote the different DVD formats, Sony and Toshiba — as well as other technology and content companies supporting both sides — have indicated they would work together to avoid the market confusion and frustration of dueling standards.

Yankee Group senior analyst Mike Goodman told TechNewsWorld the different formats have different strengths, with the bulk of content providers behind Toshiba’s HD DVD and most hardware support backing up Blu-ray. Still, the analyst said new Sony Chairman and CEO Howard Stringer, a content industry veteran, might help the companies avoid the continuing format fight.

There were also reports from Japan this week that Sony and Toshiba were coming closer together on a single format that leaned toward Sony’s solution.

Toshiba swiftly dispelled those reports, however, highlighting Goodman’s observation that both companies, which would be best served by a merged standard, still appear to be willing to take their chances with their own technology.

In response to a Japanese newspaper article, Toshiba issued a statement indicating the report of imminent unification on the basis of a 0.1 mm disc system was “unfounded and erroneous.”

“Toshiba believes a single format for next generation DVD is most beneficial for consumers, and we are actively participating in talks towards format unification,” the statement said. “At this point, however, nothing has been decided, and absolutely no decision has been made for unification on any basis.”

Cost, Content and Consumers

Yankee Group’s Goodman said although both the Blu-ray and HD DVD formats have their own technical merits and are evenly matched, HD DVD may have an edge in that it has more content provider support.

“In the end, that’s more of a problem for Blu-ray,” he said. “Content wins in the end.”

Still, Sony does have the edge when it comes to consumer electronics support, and the company has also managed to enlist the might of Hollywood movie studios, which represent a significant source of content for DVDs.

Jupiter’s Gartenberg said consumers, who would be repelled by another format war, will ultimately determine the next-gen DVD disc, which will depend on cost and content.

“The clock is ticking now,” Gartenberg said. “Consumers will start listening and paying attention. The last thing they want to hear is a story that’s anything close to Beta versus VHS.”

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