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China's DVD format 'ready by 2008'

Blu-Ray meets the Red Way

The battle may be all but over between the DVD+ and Blu-Ray camps, but China is determined to keep Western and Japanese manufacturers on their toes. Xinhua, the state-owned news agency, reminded everyone last week that China will put its own format on the market "before 2008".

China's next-generation DVD is based on, but not compatible with, today's HD-DVD format. But it's always interesting to note the context Xinhua provides, and so here it is.

"China produced about 70 percent to 80 percent of the world's DVD players. However, Chinese manufacturers need to pay licensing fees to overseas patent holders in the DVD industry. The licensing fee accounts for 40 percent of the rough cost of each DVD player", we learn.

China began work on its own DVD format, EVD, in 1999, and has been touting the technical benefits since late 2003. But the real benefits for its backers are economic - and things could get very interesting as 2008 nears.

If the vast Chinese domestic market runs China's home grown EVD standard, will the US and Japanese-owned movie studios be prepared to boycott it, and only produce content that runs on their preferred Blu-ray format? That's hard to imagine.

And as we know, China makes such decisions with exports very much in mind. If some of the 40 per cent savings from royalties can be passed onto the customer, can we expect Western consumers to take advantage of these bargain players? Especially if consumers know that content is available in the EVD format.

Blu-Ray's triumph - which was effectively sealed when Warner joined the Sony camp to give the bird to the Wintel lobby - may be short-lived. It is also worth noting that both China, and its biggest potential export market India, are two cultures that defend the value of the moving image. Both have thriving domestic movie industries.

Has Hollywood met its match? ®

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