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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 January 2007, 04:43 GMT
No ceasefire in DVD format battle
By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website, Las Vegas

Blu-ray disc display

The high definition DVD format war will continue until a winner is declared, technology watchers have heard.

Blu-ray and HD-DVD are battling to become the pre-eminent hi-def format to replace the slowing DVD market.

The two formats are incompatible with each other and so consumers are being asked to choose both the player and the system when moving to high definition.

There is also no sign of the two camps working on a unified format, the Consumer Electronics Show was told.

'Wasted opportunity'

Some believe the industry at large is being damaged by the war due to consumer confusion.

Ben Keen, chief analyst with Screen Digest, said: "There is an awful lot of people in the US and Europe who have HD displays and no hi-def content.

"That's a wasted opportunity at this point. The industry is not exploiting that opportunity."

"The growth of the industry is much slower than it could be," agreed Dr H G Lee, chief technology officer of LG Electronics, which has announced the first player to accept both formats.

LG machine playing both formats
Some machines, such as this one from LG, can play both formats

"We recognise that the two formats are here to stay."

But the backers of Blu-ray are much more bullish and are predicting victory.

Blu-ray has more backing from film studios and more makers of the players, but HD-DVD has sold equally well in the first year of release.

But the Blu-ray camp believes a library of exclusive titles and the power of PlayStation 3 - which has an in-built Blu-ray player - will see the format pull ahead in the next 12 months.

No-one is going to buy any player without good array of content
Andy Parsons
US Blu-ray Disc Association chairman

Mike Dunn, president of worldwide home entertainment for 20th Century Fox, said: "I really believe the format war is in its final phase."

Supporters of Blu-ray believe that the late arrival to the market in 2006 of new next generation Blu-ray DVD players has given a more even picture than is true.

Studio backing

Currently there is an even number of titles available for both formats but most analysts predict there will be more content available for Blu-ray than HD-DVD next year.

Seven of the eight major US film studios back Blu-ray and five of them are exclusive to the format.

Andy Parsons, chairman of the US Blu-ray Disc Association, said: "It comes down to content and selection of content. No-one is going to buy any player without good array of content.

Photographers crowding new HD-DVD player
Toshiba say they aim to sell 1.8m HD-DVD players in 2007

"As title population grows consumers will quickly see which platform has the titles."

In an ominous sign for HD-DVD, the backers of Blu-ray revealed that of the 20 biggest selling DVDs of 2006 the vast majority were from film studios supporting Blu-ray.

Toshiba and Microsoft, the principal backers of HD-DVD, see the future very differently.

They believe that the cheaper cost of HD-DVD - both in terms of hardware and the ability of firms to produce content on HD-DVD disks gives them the advantage.

Amir Majidimehr, corporate vice president of consumer technology at Microsoft, said the dual format player by LG - originally a Blu-ray only backer - was proof of the vitality of HD-DVD.

LG is saying that HD-DVD is not dying
Amir Majidimehr
Microsoft corporate vice president of consumer technology

"LG are recognising there is a thriving market for HD-DVD. That's the most positive thing for me.

"It's going to show the way to other Blu-ray exclusive companies. LG is saying that HD-DVD is not dying.

"You can wish it goes away but I'm here to ensure that it doesn't."

Microsoft has sold more than 175,000 and says that they sold out as quickly as they were made.

Toshiba has said that it plans to sell more than 1.8m HD-DVD players in 2007.

Mr Majidimehr predicted that the lifespan of both formats would also be less than the current DVD format.

It has lasted 10 years with great success but Mr Majidimehr said the technology would be superseded by developments in online delivery of hi-def content.

Some of the multi-functional gadgets on display at CES

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