August 23, 2005

Sony, Toshiba Give Up On Unified DVD Format

TOKYO -- Japanese electronics giants Sony and Toshiba have failed to agree on a unified format for next-generation DVDs, according to a newspaper report Tuesday.

Talks have been suspended indefinitely between a group of companies led by Sony Corp. (SNE), which supports the Blu-ray format, and the Toshiba Corp.-led bloc, which backs the HD DVD format, Japan's Yomiuri newspaper reported.

Spokesmen from both firms refused to verify the report, each saying they have not ruled out the possibility of further talks. However, both said that the development of products containing their respective DVD formats was already underway.

"Next-generation optical disks that are robust enough to stay relevant for more than 10 years are required to take advantage of high-definition video and high-quality audio, and the 0.1 mm (Blu-ray) disk structure is advantageous in this regard," said Taro Takamine, a Sony spokesman.

Sony's Blu-ray disks have a more sophisticated format and play back 25 GB of data compared with HD DVD's 15, but are more expensive to produce.

The two blocs developed their DVD formats separately, but growing concern about confusion among consumers over the different formats prompted Sony and Toshiba to start negotiations on a unified format earlier this year.

Takamine said while Sony remains open to discussion with the Toshiba bloc, the firm's goal is to agree on a single - not unified, or jointly developed - format.

"We have no intention on settling on a compromised format that only plays back 20 GB, for example," Takamine said.

Toshiba spokesman Junko Furuta also acknowledged that a unified format did not look likely for the time being.

"We have doubts as to whether the Blu-ray format is a viable technology in terms of production cost," she said. "We're also not convinced that consumers would need to store so much data on disks, especially now that internal harddrives are more popular."

Furuta also said the more sophisticated Blu-ray disks would be harder to adopt for use in laptop computers, as well as in car navigation systems, also popular in Japan.

Both sides are already developing products that feature the respective DVD formats. Toshiba plans to roll out HD DVD players by the end of this year, while Sony's popular game console PlayStation 3, which will play Blu-ray disks, is due out in spring 2006.

Major entertainment companies are also split in their support of the two formats. Walt Disney and 20th Century Fox support the Blu-ray format, while Toshiba has won the backing of companies like Warner Brothers and Universal Pictures.


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