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 Post subject: IT news: Microsoft, Intel back Toshiba's new DVD format
PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2005 7:08 am 
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Toshiba Corp. has emerged as the winner in the battle over new DVD format, putting Sony Corp. on the sidelines.

Technology giants Microsoft Corp. and Intel Corp. yesterday said they are putting their might behind Toshiba's high-definition DVD format, striking a blow to Sony's Blu-ray standard.

That means that Microsoft and Intel will develop software and chips that will allow personal computers to play the next-generation DVDs from Toshiba — a bet that this will likely become the dominant technology.

“It feeds into their strategy for getting the PC accepted as an entertainment device,” said Gerry Kaufhold, an analyst at In-Stat of Scottsdale, Ariz. “Being able to put an HD-DVD movie on a multimedia PC creates market interest in buying a new PC.”

The announcement is almost a replay of a similar battle two decades ago when Sony's Betamax format lost out to its VHS rival as the video standard.

Toshiba, with NEC Corp. and Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd., has been promoting the HD-DVD format, while Sony, along with Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., maker of Panasonic products, had been pushing for Blu-ray.

The next-generation DVD players offer better picture and audio quality and are expected to hit the market later this year in Japan, and possibly as early as Christmas in North America.

Microsoft and Intel say they are backing the HD-DVD format because this technology is cheaper, and three major Chinese consumer electronics makers also support it.

“The two [U.S. technology giants] of them are essentially speaking for the PC industry in saying this is the direction we want to go,” said Richard Doherty, director of research for Envisoneering Group of Seaford, N.Y.

“It's a fantastic endorsement of the PC as an entertainment platform — not just as an office platform as we know it.”

Microsoft decided to jump on the HD-DVD disc format because it also enables consumers to legally make a copy of the disc onto their hard drive — be it a personal computer or a consumer electronic device with a hard drive, said Jordi Ribas, a spokesman for Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft.

“They can then transmit the content to any other device within the home and be able to enjoy the content in any room in their home,” Mr. Ribas added. “That is very important for our vision of the future of entertainment. This is a future capability.”

The Blu-ray Disc Association, however, will not commit to allowing consumers to make legal copies of discs into the hard drives of PCs or any consumer electronic device, he said.

“We want to make it safe and legal for consumers to enjoy their content throughout their home,” he said.

Microsoft plans to incorporate software supporting Toshiba's DVD format in its next operating system, Windows Vista.

Intel spokesman Bill Kirkos said the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company also prefers the HD-DVD format because it is more consumer-friendly, allowing people to play old discs on the HD-DVD players.

“You wouldn't have to go out and buy a whole new DVD player,” Mr. Kirkos said. “So your old discs would not be obsolete.”

Ted Schadler, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc., said he was surprised that Microsoft and Intel came out so strongly in favour of the HD-DVD format.

“That makes it clear that Microsoft does not want the Blu-ray disc to win.”

But Mr. Schadler predicts that some movie studios will continue to resist the new format because there has been a split of support for the rival DVD formats.

“Consumers, if they are faced in the market with a choice, will wait until the dust settles,” he predicted.

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

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