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Blu-ray, HD DVD merger talks scrapped

Parties can't agree

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The two, rival blue-laser optical storage formats, Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD, will not be coming together, Sony Computer Entertainment president Ken Kutaragi admitted yesterday.

Talks between the BD-backing Sony and HD DVD cheerleader Toshiba have ended, he said, in an interview with Nikkei Electronics.

Surprise, surprise. Comments from both parties during the period of the negotiations implied there was little chance of a compromise. To do so would require either party to abandon their preferred format. Supporters of each format have, in the past, made it clear that physically the two formats are incompatible. The only way around the problem was to adopt one format's physical structure and add support for the other's data structure.

Sony had the edge here. Since BD is more capacious than HD DVD, with a more complex data structure, there was inevitably more scope to add HD DVD data compatibility to the BD spec than vice versa.

Sony first made the suggestion back in April, in a bid to prevent not only a war between the two formats as each battles to win the favour of consumers, but also to limit HD DVD's lead in content availability. Pre-recorded movies on HD DVD are expected to ship in the US in Q4, just ahead of BD-based movies. And while the HD DVD spec is complete, some elements, such as copy protection, have yet to be finalised by the BD camp.

By late May, however, it was clear the negotiations were in deadlock, and so the principals brought in more senior staffers, including Kutaragi, to bring the discussions to a higher level. Once again, Sony's suggestion that HD DVD's data structure be incorporated into BD's, with BD providing the unified physical structure appear to have been rejected by Toshiba. To be fair, Sony hasn't been willing to embrace HD DVD, either. ®

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