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Toshiba confirms US HD DVD delay

Roll-out 'February or March'

Toshiba yesterday confirmed its next-generation optical disc format, HD DVD, will not launch in the US until "February or March". The technology had previously been expected to hit the market before the end of this year.

However, HD DVD players will ship in Japan, as set down in the original launch timetable.

"We have been discussing with content holders the most effective way to launch in the US market," Toshiba Corporate Senior Vice President Yoshihide Fujii told reporters yesterdsay, "and it will probably be in February or March."

Earlier this month, a company spokeswoman hinted at such a delay when she noted that hardware and content companies were in talks to fix the best time to launch the format. She indicated that the original late-2005 timeframe may no longer be the most appropriate time to promote the format to US consumers.

Blu-ray Disc (BD), the rival format to HD DVD, isn't expected to appear until Spring 2006 at the earliest, when Sony launches the BD-equipped PlayStation 3. That's the console's anticipated Japanese launch window - at this stage it's unclear whether the machine will ship in the US in the same timeframe, or much later, as has been the case with previous PlayStation launches.

Either way, the HD DVD camp clearly believes it's got more time than it thought to gear up for the launch of its preferred format. Indeed, Toshiba this week indicated the delay will be used to stockpile HD DVD players in preparation for the formal US launch. It also gives movie studios more time to prepare launch content.

Earlier this week, Microsoft and Intel formally declared their allegiance to HD DVD, which unlike BD has the backing of the DVD Forum, the organisation that oversees the DVD brand. That's the format's key strength, though the discs are also cheaper to make than BDs are. BD, on the other hand, has Sony behind it and offers a greater storage capacity - 50GB to 30GB, with dual-layer media - giving it space for higher-resolution video and even more extras. ®

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