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Intel, MS back HD DVD

Better than Blu-ray because... er... it is, say firms

Intel and Microsoft have formally allied themselves with Toshiba's HD DVD next-generation optical disc format. Both will become members of the HD DVD Promotion Group, the pair said yesterday.

Both firms' support for the format centres on its greater suitability for PCs than HD DVD's rival, the Sony-backed Blu-ray Disc (BD) represents.

Interestingly, they do refer to BD, claiming it has a lower capacity than HD DVD: 30GB for a dual-layer HD DVD to 25GB for a BD. Neither mention that's the single-layer BD capacity, or that the dual-layer version offers 50GB of storage. Many of the HD DVD format's other strengths also apply to BD.

Not that either company comes to the debate with disinterest. Microsoft's Xbox 360 will go up against Sony's BD-equipped PlayStation 3, and while the 360 will initially ship with a regular DVD drive, Microsoft has indicated it will upgrade to a next-generation format at some point in the future - once there's sufficient content out there, presumably. Microsoft will clearly now turn to HD DVD, and given its close ties with Toshiba, we can well envision the Japanese CE giant bending over backwards to supply its partner with HD DVD drives for the 360.

And Intel? Well, Intel wants all our living rooms to contain PCs disguised as consumer electronics kit, for which it has launched its Viiv initiative. Maybe Viiv ought to be OS agnostic, but it's promoting Windows Media Center Edition straight down the line, and if MS is going to back HD DVD, Intel probably feels it has to too.

It also said it likes the way HD DVD incorporates the ability to allow consumers to copy discs for personal use, ie. to a Media Center's hard drive, and then to beamed around the house via wireless networks to Media Center Extenders. "HD DVD discs also will allow copies of the movie to be played on portable devices," said Intel. Assuming, of course, content providers set the appropriate flag.

Intel's business is predicated on promoting the PC more generally, and it reckons HD DVD will be better suited to notebook usage, thanks to its greater suitability for incorporation into slimline drive form-factors.

For all this, Microsoft and Intel allow themselves a get-out clause, presumably to give them room to back BD if it looks like winning the almost inevitable format war. "Although the companies have determined that HD DVD is the only viable solution at this time, each remains committed to working toward one format that meets consumer and industry requirements," they said. ®

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