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Rivals start to spin Blu-ray, HD DVD alternatives

All the 'Versatile' disc technologies explained

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Suddenly, all sorts of small companies are crawling out into the sunlight to tout alternative optical media technologies that will support HD content without the need to move from the current red-laser technology to tomorrow's blue-wavelength lasers.

In one corner is a consortium of well-known names such as Sprout CD (Ukraine), Antrop Studios (Russia) and VDL ODMS (the Netherlands), Engadget reports. They're shouting about their VCDHD (Versatile Compact Disc High Density) system, which stores 4.7GB on a single-sided disc that's allegedly half the thickness of a DVD. Only a cynic would suggest that's because DVDs have two layers...

VCDHD is also claimed to be less error-prone and more robust than DVD, despite being thinner, which may also explain why they can be punched out in at least a third of the time, the companies claim. The yield is also way higher, allegedly.

Next we have PH-DVD, developed by a company called Polarizonics. This time, the trick is to increase the capacity of blue-laser discs and read-speed threefold by using different light polarisations - a feature it claims is already present in blue-laser systems but goes unused. We wonder why Sony, Toshiba and co missed it...

PH-DVDs, Polarizonics claims, can be made using existing HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc plants.

Both formats have emerged even as the consumer electronics industry is gearing up to launch the two better known next-generation optical disc formats. But there are other, already announced alternatives.

shinco evd-8830 evd player

Work is progressing on China's EVD (Enhanced Versatile Disc), the format that is expected to offer HD content on a DVD-like red-laser disc. In December 2005, EVD's developer, Beijing-based E-World said it would work with London-based New Medium Enterprises (NME) to merge EVD with NME's VMD (Versatile Multi-layer Disc), a red-laser system offering 50GB of storage capacity on ten 5GB data layers, though it can go up to 200GB, according to NME.

Just as E-World is hoping to bring cheap HD content to the mass Chinese market, NME has its eye on the Indian sub-continent and all those hugely popular Bollywood extravaganzas. The two companies are now one, called NME-World. VMD will ship in Q3, its developers claim.

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