Claims that moves to unify the two key competing HD video disc formats are progressing to a successful conclusion are "unfounded and erroneous", Toshiba said today.
Toshiba is pushing HD DVD. Sony is promoting Blu-ray Disc (BD). Both formats use blue laser light to increase the capacity of a DVD-sized optical disc sufficiently to allow it to hold HD movie content. BD has the edge in capacity - 25GB per layer, to HD DVD's 15GB - but is harder to make and is potentially less resistant to damage. Both camps have won big-name backers from the movie, storage and computing markets.
This is a recipe for commercial disaster, as the two formats battle it out for consumers' hearts, minds and wallets. Generally, consumers are unwilling to make a choice until there's a clear winner - the last thing anyone wants is to be lumbered with a moribund format.
No wonder, then, that Sony revealed last month it was open to discussing how the two formats might be aligned. Soon after, Toshiba said it was indeed talking to the BD camp about such matters, a fact it re-iterated today.
"We are actively participating in talks towards format unification," it said in statement released this morning.
"At this point, however, nothing has been decided, and absolutely no decision has been made for unification on any basis," it added ominously. "The indication that a unification agreement on the basis of a 0.1mm disc system is imminent is unfounded and erroneous. Given this, Toshiba does not intend to make any proposal on unification to the members of the HD DVD Promotion Group."
Toshiba said it would continue with the discussions; but we wonder if talk are simply an attempt by each camp to persuade the other to drop their favourite format. Certainly, representatives from both groups have in the past vociferously denied there is any way the two formats might be physically integrated. Any union between the two is therefore likely to centre on implementing format A's file structure on format B's physical disc specification. Either way round, that means one or other disc must be ditched.
As if to highlight the gulf between the BD and HD DVD, Toshiba also intends to present "a new higher capacity HD DVD-ROM disc" this week at Media-Tech Expo 2005 in Las Vegas.
The BD Forum will also be at the show, to provide an update on its as-yet-incomplete format later today. ®
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