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China readies Blu-Ray competitor

People's techromancers revive HD-DVD

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Some Chinese consumer electronics companies are good and tired of signing royalty checks to foreigners for a new generation of high definition optical discs, but are they too late to make a change?

Shanghai United Optical Disc today announced it has completed the first production line for China Blue High-definition (CBHD) disc format, a new competitor for Blu-Ray. DigiTimes reports via enorth.com.cn. Volume production will begin in the fourth quarter of 2008 for the China market initially.

Oh dear, it appears someone buried their old HD-DVD player in an cursed Micmac Indian burial ground. Sometimes dead is better, folks.

CBHD, formally known as CH-DVD, is a Chinese version of Toshiba's now-deceased HD-DVD format. Added to CBHD is various Chinese-made and approved technologies such as advanced copy protection and the ability to use a government owned DRA audio and AVS video codec.

CBHD obviously faces considerable challenges - namely Blu-Ray which enjoys a significant head start. Entry-level Blue-Ray players have also sharply declined in price as the format gained traction worldwide and HD-DVD became extinct.

CBHD also doesn't have the backing of any major Hollywood studio. (Not that a lack of blessing has historically injured Chinese home movie sales.)

The advantage of CBHD is manufacturing price. Apparently, a production line of DVDs can be fitted to make CBHD discs for a mere $800,000, compared to the $3m needed to do the same for Blu-Ray.

Vendors also pay a royalty of 55 yuan (about $8.10) to make a CBHD player, which beats Sony's Blu-Ray fee.

The benefits for end-users? That kind of talk has no place in an HD format discussion. Have you learned nothing from the previous format war?

But before CBHD is written off as DOA, consider that China is a very big market with plenty of room to grow. China is also becoming less inclined to accept tech taxation without representation.

HD-DVD's last gasp may stir interesting new winds. ®

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