'Ultra-Multi' could end clash over competing DVD formats
By Andrej Sokolow Mar 14, 2006, 12:08 GMT
Hanover, Germany - A looming war over the formats used in the next generation of DVD players could be resolved in the near future.
Plans are under way to produce a combination or dual format laser player that would play competing HD-DVD and Blu-ray format video-discs.
The new hybrid player, known as 'Ultra-Multi', could hit the market later this year or early next year, according to industry sources at the CeBIT computer fair in Germany.
Some 60 to 70 per cent of the televisions on sale today are adapted for the HD or high definition format which allows for crystal clear images.
But the DVDs currently in use have a maximum capacity of only nine gigabytes, not enough for the volume of data required for the HD generation.
CD-ROMs were conceived to hold 0.7 gigabytes of data, DVDs for 4.7 gigabytes on the original single layer, high-density DVD for 15 gigabytes and Blu-rays for 25 gigabytes.
Producers of HD-DVD and Blu-ray both say their format is the best. HD-DVD is cheaper, but Blu-ray discs have a bigger capacity.
Outwardly, the discs resemble both CD-ROMs and DVDs, but need blue laser light to 'read' information from pits etched into the surface.
While both HD-DVD and Blu-ray are likely to be useful to computer owners for data storage, the discs' main use will be for selling movies in high-definition quality that will make existing DVD films look grainy by comparison.
But the movie industry is not happy at the idea of having to make films in two different versions for the video market, which is growing in importance in view of declining sales at cinemas.
It might require 50 gigabytes to store a full-length feature film at top quality. There are now triple-layer, 45-gigabyte HD-DVD discs. Blu-ray manages discs with two layers and a capacity of 50 gigabytes.
The essential difference between the two technologies is that Blu-ray requires all-new recording machinery whereas pre-recorded HD-DVDs can be made with existing DVD manufacturing machines.
Blu-ray and HD-DVD format players are due to hit the US market this spring and make their debut in Europe during the autumn.
Blu-ray has won the support of major Hollywood studios, but the Blu-ray camp is still troubled by worries that HD-DVD, backed by NEC and Toshiba of Japan, will win out by being cheaper.
Concern grew when computer industry giants Microsoft and Intel threw their support behind HD-DVD, leaving the race open. In the meantime, Blu-ray backers like Hewlett-Packard have come out in support of a dual-format system.
According to Toshiba, a basic player will be available in the United States in March for 500 dollars and can be updated when the software is finalized. Warner, Paramount and Universal have recently said they would release HD-DVD movies starting at the end of March.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur