The DVD industry is no stranger to significant infighting over formats, withmanufacturers supporting one of two rival standards, DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW. And itappears that the standards battle will drag on for the foreseeable future.
In thelatest maneuver, Toshiba and NEChave announced that they are planning to introduce a new format for next-generation DVDsthat will be incompatible with formats proposed bySony and others.
The next-generation format will compete with a standard called Blu-ray, which isscheduled for release as early as next year. That standard is supported by the Blu-rayConsortium, a group of industry heavyweights that includes Sony,Philips, Hitachi,Samsung, Sharp andThomson Multimedia. Toshiba was oneof the few leading electronics makers not to join the consortium when it was organizedearlier this year.
The current DVD standard, which uses uses red light, holds only 4.7 gigabytes of data.In comparison, the consortium’s proposed Blu-ray standard will have vastly greaterstorage capacity, thanks to blue light’s shorter wavelength. Blu-ray DVDs will becapable of storing a high-definition Hollywood movie on a single side of a disc, andwill have at least 23.3 gigabytes of storage.
Manufacturers will have to make a considerable investment to switch from red toblue laser DVDs, but industry observers said they expect the discs’ greater storagecapacity will make them a commercial success.
However, despite Blu-ray’s benefits, it will feature protective cartridges and otheradvances that may stymie compatibility with existing products and create confusionamong DVD consumers.
In contrast, Toshiba’s proposed new format will hold 15 to 20 gigabytes of data.Although this is less storage than the Blu-ray consortium’s format, a Toshibaspokesperson said the company’s format would have cost and convenience advantages.
“From the manufacturer’s side, with our format they can use many of the same facilitiesthey use to make existing DVDs, so costs are much lower,” said Toshiba spokespersonMidori Suzuki.
Suzuki added that Toshiba’s new format is more compatible with the existing red-laserformat and will ease the transition from one format to another. It also will allow thedesign of players and recorders that handle both red-laser and blue-laser discs.
“From the consumer’s side, when a new type of player comes out, they still want to beable to watch the DVDs they already own,” she noted.
According to Suzuki, Toshiba’s new format has additional design improvements, such asits use of semi-transparent materials to record two layers of data on a single discside, and advanced image compression technology.
Suzuki said that in the future the Toshiba format and the consortium’s “would notnecessarily be competing formats.” She suggested that the Blu-ray format may stillbecome the industry standard, adding that Toshiba continues to develop Blu-raytechnology and may support it in the future.
Meanwhile, a Sony spokesperson said Sony’s commitment to the Blu-ray format is firm butdeclined to comment on whether Toshiba’s proposal could derail Blu-ray’s acceptance asan industry standard.
But Toshiba’s approach gives the company a significant advantage. AsAberdeen Group research directorRuss Craig told the E-Commerce Times: “The Toshiba format is backward-compatible, unlike theindustry consortium format. So Toshiba-NEC have analyzed the market requirement better.
“If they get theirs into the market first, it will be very interesting to see whathappens to the consortium. It’s certainly going to be a battle going forward.”