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Toshiba unveils world's first HD-DVD player

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In the race to set a global industry standard for next-generation DVD players, Toshiba has launched its first high definition DVD player in Japan.

The Japanese firm, which is locked in a battle with Sony to gain the upper hand in this new market, released its first high-definition DVD player on Friday with little fanfare. The new player is priced at ¥110,000 ($935), with two new players set to hit US shelves during April.

Meanwhile, Sony, who is heading up a rival DVD standard group, is expected to start rolling out Blu-ray DVD players in the US in July for an estimated $1,000 each.

For the past three years the Blu-ray and HD-DVD camps, led by Sony and Toshiba respectively, have fought to have their DVD standard accepted by electronics and PC manufacturers, as well as entertainment studios, to succeed the current DVD format.

Both Blu-ray and HD-DVD disc formats have data inscribed onto their surface by a blue laser. This means they are capable of holding far more data than existing red-laser discs. The wavelength of a blue laser is shorter than that of a red laser, allowing the DVD writer to pack more information into the same amount of space. These new formats will also be capable of producing superior image quality as well as supporting interactive features.

While Sony's Blu-ray offering is expected to have a bigger storage capacity than the HD-DVD format, it is vastly different to existing DVDs, meaning it will be more expensive to manufacture and will require consumers to buy new hardware. Toshiba's HD-DVD format has much the same structure as existing DVDs and will be usable on traditional red-laser DVD players.

In order to avoid a re-run of the VHS and Betamax battle, it was hoped that Toshiba and Sony would reach agreement on a single disc-type so consumers wouldn't have to make a choice between different DVD formats.

However, hopes of a unified next-generation DVD format ended late last year following news that talks between the two groups had broken down and the companies were to proceed with their respective standards.

Since the agreement talks fell apart, both groups have been making regular announcements about their intentions for their respective formats.

One of the most recent Blu-ray announcements has given Toshiba and its supporters something of an advantage: Sony reported in mid-March that it would delay the release of its PlayStation 3 until November 2006. The company blamed the delay on the belated finalisation of the copy protection technology standard for the Blu-ray disc drive included in the PS3.

Toshiba and the rest of the HD-DVD clan were no doubt rubbing their hands with glee at this announcement. The PlayStation console enjoys worldwide popularity and Blu-ray could have made quite a market impact through the potentially huge PS3 customer base.

For now though, Toshiba and the HD-DVD format appears to be in pole position, with a couple of months head start on its rival.

Toshiba said it aims to sell 600,000 to 700,000 of its next-generation DVD players globally in the fiscal year ending March 2007, according to Reuters.

Copyright © 2006, ENN

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