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Blu-ray, HD DVD combo discs due early '08

Total HD release slides?

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Warner Home Video may not release dual-format HD DVD/Blu-ray Disc media - launched in January this year under the Total HD brand - until 2008 and not late 2007 as originally planned.

Total HD glued a standard HD DVD and a standard Blu-ray Disc together, back to back. This 'glu-ray' disc will then play in any next-gen optical disc player. WHV's pitch is that it will allow consumers to buy one product and still be able to watch the movie no matter which format wins out - if, indeed, one does.

Mastering and manufacturing the two discs is the same as it is for regular media - they are regular media - but there's an additional cost from the extra stage in Total HD production: gluing the two discs together.

Will consumers pay that premium? WHV hopes so, but even if they don't and it's forced to price the discs as single-format media, it still gains advantage because retailers need stock just one product in place of two.

Of course, if consumers do overwhelmingly favour one format, then the other can be quietly killed off, and Total HD becomes redundant. WHV may well be being cautious, waiting to see how the HD media market evolves through 2007 before committing itself to the cost of producing Total HD discs.

Certainly, it's been fairly vague about release timeframes. At the launch, it hinted that the first Total HDs might appear late 2007. This week, a senior WHV executive said they'll appear early next year, US trade paper Video Business reports.

A slip? If so, it's just a slight one. The bigger question is, if Total HD is as compelling a solution to the two formats, limited shelf space problem, why is WHV waiting so long? Because it's not as compelling as all that. Only WHV is supporting Total HD - publicly, at any rate - so its value to retailers is limited. For WHV it's clearly an approach to implement only if it has to - hardly a ringing endorsement. Maybe it won't be needed at all.

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