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First players based on Taiwan's FVD HD disc to ship next month

Why wait for blue-laser discs?

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Taiwan's answer to HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc was formally launched yesterday. The format's backers claim it offers comparable video quality to blue-laser media but at a fraction of the price.

Announced almost a year ago, FVD (Forward Versatile Disc) is based on the same red-laser technology used in today's DVD and CD players. Unlike DVDs, FVDs can store HD content, thanks to the use of Microsoft's Windows Media Video 9 codec, which allows 135 minutes of HD video to be stored on an FVD. The format uses WMA for audio.

FVD also offers better copy protection than DVD, with movies encrypted using AES rather than the weaker Content Scrambling System (CSS).

A single-layer FVD can hold 5.4-6GB of video content or data, rising to 9.8-11GB for a single-sided, double-layer disc. That's some way off HD DVD's 15GB/30GB single-layer/dual-layer capacity, let alone BD's 25GB/50GB space.

However, FVD supporters say the format will still hold a 1920 x 1080i movie.

According to a DigiTimes report, the first FVD player is expected to launch in Taiwan next month for around TWD5500 ($175). The player will ship with ten movies on FVD. That is expected to be rather less than the first HD DVD players will cost, though as yet no schedule for that format's roll-out in Taiwan has been made public. HD DVD will be launched in the US in Q4.

FVD was developed by the Opto-Electronics Systems (OES) division of the government-funded Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI). The format will be maintained and promoted by the Advanced Optical Storage Research Alliance (AOSRA), which comprises 29 local player and disc manufacturers, and media firms.

Like China's home-grown EVD format, FVD was created as much in protest to the overseas ownership of key DVD patents as to satisfy a specific market demand. According to ITRI, "for every DVD player [made in Taiwan], royalties can be as high as $10 - about one third of the roll-out price". A desire to be free of those payments was the key motivation for many local firms to join AOSRA.

ITRI has ties with the DVD Forum, and is thought to have submitted FVD to the organisation, possibly as an interim format bridging the gap between DVD and HD-DVD. ®

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