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Japanese consumer electronics company JVC has created an optical disc that contains both regular DVD and Blu-ray Disc zones.

The announcement comes a month after Toshiba and Memory Tech, both members of the rival HD DVD camp, unveiled a similar dual-format disc that meets today's DVD standard an HD DVD.

JVC's prototype goes one step further than the Toshiba/Memory Tech product by incorporating a triple-layer structure. Topmost is the 25GB BD layer, under which sits the usual dual-layer DVD structure providing 8.5GB of storage capacity. The Toshiba/Memory Tech disc provides a single DVD layer, enough for 4.7GB worth of video and audio data.

Both discs are seen as possible mechanisms for smoothing the transition to high-definition movie content stored on either BD or HD DVD. Customers will be able to buy the discs knowing that they can watch the DVD content straight away, and the HD material as and when they upgrade to a new machine. Punters can also buy HD movies without losing the ability to view the films on older, otherwise incompatible hardware.

The discs are even more attractive to content providers, who can offer a single product targeting both the DVD and high-def markets, keeping manufacturing and distribution costs down. This will be particularly handy while high-def remains a specialist market, as has been the case in the audio world. Consumer-oriented BD and HD DVD players and pre-recorded discs are expected to arrive in the US and Europe late 2005.

JVC has not yet decided whether to commercialise its dual-format disc, but it has said it will submit the medium to the Blu-ray Disc Association as a possible addition to the BD-ROM specification. ®

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