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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 June 2006, 10:45 GMT 11:45 UK
Next generation DVD war hots up
Consumers look at Blu-ray discs
The format wars could create customer confusion
The first Blu-ray DVD discs have been released in the US ahead of the launch of the first Blu-ray player on 25 June.

The move marks the start of a Sony-led campaign in the next generation DVD format wars against the Toshiba-led HD DVD system.

The battle to win consumers began in March 2006 when Toshiba released the first HD-DVD player.

The introduction of two different formats has split the electronics industry and Hollywood film studios.

Historic fight

Many people liken the fight to the 1980s tussle between VHS and Betamax. Then, Sony lost out to rival JVC in the format wars.

This time, the electronics giant will be hoping that it will come out on top.

Exhibitors show off Toshiba's HD DVD player

Backers of its technology include Samsung, Dell and Apple, while Toshiba, with NEC, Microsoft and others, is pushing HD DVD.

In Hollywood, companies like Disney and 20th Century Fox have sided with Sony, while the followers of HD DVD include Universal.

Warner Bros and Viacom have said they will support both.

Film extras

Both systems are incompatible but can both store large amounts of data, important for high-definition video.

The technologies use a blue laser to write information. It has a shorter wavelength so more data can be stored.

Gamer plays the Xbox 360
Owners of the Xbox 360 will have to buy a separate HD DVD drive

The first Blu-ray discs can store 25GB of high-quality data, but will eventually be able to store 50GB.

Toshiba's HD DVD will hold 30GB.

By comparison, a standard single-layer DVD holds just under 5GB of data

Both disc formats offer much better quality audio and video, and the ability for film-makers to pack many more extras onto a single disc.

They will also be more user-friendly, allowing users to switch languages or skip scenes without having to return to the main menu.

Games technology

The first Blu-ray players are made by Samsung and will retail at $1,000 (£550) in the US, nearly twice the price of the first HD-DVD players.

Seven discs have gone on sale including classic films like The Terminator.

Sony PlayStation 3
Sony plans to use Blu-ray in the PlayStation 3
Even before the players have hit the shelves, backers of the HD-DVD format have upped the stakes.

Toshiba has said it will offer the first HD-DVD recorder in Japan from mid-July 2006.

The recorder will sell for nearly 400,000 Yen (£1,900).

But many people are waiting for what could be the "killer application" for Blu Ray.

Sony's PlayStation 3, which will be launched in mid-November, will come with a Blu-ray drive as standard.

In comparison, owners of Microsoft's Xbox 360, which is already available around the world, will have to buy a separate HD DVD drive when they become available.

Games consoles tend to drive early adoption of technology because hardcore gamers, keen to get their hands on the latest titles, are prepared to buy the latest technology.

The games industry is estimated to be worth $25 billion (£13.5 billion) dollars annually.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See images from a video game that uses the Blu-ray format



SEE ALSO
Next-generation DVD battle begins
19 Apr 06 |  Technology
Tech giants move on next-gen DVDs
27 Sep 05 |  Technology
Next gen DVD rivals fail to agree
23 Aug 05 |  Technology
Tech giants explore 'hybrid' DVDs
21 Apr 05 |  Technology
What high-definition will do to DVDs
31 Jan 05 |  Technology
Games win for Blu-ray DVD format
07 Jan 05 |  Technology

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