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Taiwan's Blu-ray, HD DVD rival goes mass-market

FVD players enter volume production

Taiwan's home-grown answer to next-generation optical disc formats like HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc has gone into mass production.

The FVD (Forward Versatile Disc) format provides HD content on a disc capable of being read by red lasers of the kind used in today's DVD players. Content is encoded in Microsoft's WMV HD format. FVD was developed to bridge the pricing gap between DVD and next-generation formats, which aren't expected to go mainstream until 2008.

So claims Der-ray Huang, deputy director of Opto-Electronics and Systems (OES) laboratories, a division of the government-funded Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) and the organisation that developed FVD, according to a DigiTimes report. Huang said FVD players are now in volume production from Taiwanese manufacturer Idar, which hopes to ship 300,000 players in 2006. By the end of the year, the company hopes over 1,000 movies will be available on FVD.

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 sufficient for 135 minutes of 1920 x 1080i HD content, the format's backers claim. 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.

FVD, which was formally launched in March this year, is being primarily pitched at the Taiwanese and other Asian markets, but its backers would like to see the format adopted in the West, though here it will have a tougher fight with HD DVD and BD.

The Taiwanese format isn't the only alternative to these next-generation optical disc formats. China is developing EVD to free domestic manufacturers from the royalty payments they will need to make to Western companies in order to produce HD DVD- and/or BD-compatible players. ®

Idar FVD player

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