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Toshiba may delay HD DVD launch - again

We're just waiting on AACS, claims vendor

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Toshiba today blamed the brains behind the Advanced Access Content System (AACS) for any delay it may experience shipping HD DVD drives and players into the Japanese market this year.

According to the company, it has "completed the design of HD DVD players for the US and Japanese markets and are ready for volume production at our manufacturing facilities in Japan".

And here's the 'but': "Toshiba will only launch its HD DVD products after AACS is finalised.... Under these circumstances, Toshiba plans to launch HD DVD players and notebook PCs with HD DVD drives in Japan promptly following the implementation of AACS into hardware and software products."

The AACS Licensing Authority (AACSLA) - which was, incidentally, co-founded by Toshiba - published version 0.9 of the AACS specification in April this year. Its publicly stated goal is to get the final release, version 1.0, out of the door "later this year".

Toshiba's statement today suggests it at least doesn't expect AACS 1.0 to appear in time to make it worthwhile shipping machines into the Japanese market before 2005 is through. In September, Toshiba said it was pushing back the launch of HD DVD in the US to Q1 2006, in part it would seem, because AACS wouldn't be ready in time to get product to market in time for the Thanksgiving/Christmas buying season.

Japanese early adopters are probably less sensitive to such occasions than US consumers, so presumably Toshiba figured if the AACSLA came up with the goods after late November/early December, it could still ship players into Japan.

Toshiba said it is still planning for a Q1 2006 launch in the US, probably between the middle and end of the quarter. But the Japanese launch now looks more likely to take place in the same three-month period.

Blu-ray Disc proponents have little opportunity for schadenfreude here: their preferred format also relies on AACS for copy-protection and likewise can't ship until AACS 1.0 is done and dusted. That said, their decision to launch in the US in Spring 2006, while potentially coming a little later than HD DVD's US debut, at least has spared them from the need to make excuses. ®

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