Write-once HD-DVDs due in shops early next year

Two Japanese disc makers will mass produce HD-DVD-Rs packing 15G-bytes of capacity next year as hardware for the media hits the shops in Japan and the US.

Volume production of a write-once HD-DVD-R disc that can store 15G-bytes of data will begin in the first half of next year, about the same time that HD-DVD recorders and PC drives will become available, Toshiba and two optical disc makers said at a news conference Wednesday.

The HD-DVD-R discs, which have about three times the storage capacity of today's DVD-R discs, should give consumers who want to record and store content on the HD-DVD format an alternative to the 20G-byte HD-DVD-RW discs that will also be in shops about the same time, according to Toshiba.

HD-DVD's backers had already discussed the development of the HD-DVD-RW discs, which can be rewritten many times, but had not talked about a write-once technology until Wednesday. The companies would not discuss pricing, but the write-once discs are expected to offer a cheaper alternative to rewritable discs for customers who buy HD-DVD equipment.

HD-DVD is competing with the Blu-ray Disc format to become the next-generation DVD technology. While Blu-ray backers Sony and Matsushita Electric Industrial promote Blu-ray's high storage capacity as its main advantage for consumers, HD-DVD's chief virtue is that it can be made on the same equipment used to manufacture DVDs, according Toshiba and NEC, the format's principal backers.

This reduces costs for manufacturers because they don't have to buy new manufacturing equipment, and means that HD-DVDs can be made for nearly the same price as DVDs, its backers claim.

However, that compatibility with DVD-making equipment hadn't extended to HD-DVD-R because of an issue with the layer of dye used to store data in write-once discs.The problem has now been overcome, Hideaki Ohsawa, a senior manager with Toshiba's Core Technology Center, said Wednesday.

HD-DVDs have the same structure as DVDs, but in HD-DVDs, data is written with a blue laser that has a narrower wavelength than that of the red lasers used for DVDs. The narrower wavelength means more data can be stored, but the dye used in DVD-R discs isn't sensitive enough to work with blue lasers, Ohsawa said.

The trick has been to make dye that is more sensitive, can be spun onto discs with the same process used for DVD-R production, and is strong enough to withstand many replays. Other dyes developed to date have not met all those criteria, according to Toshifumi Kawano, a senior manager at disc maker Mitsubishi Kagaku Media.

But Mitsubishi Kagaku, working with disc maker Hitachi Maxell Ltd. and dye maker Hayashibara Biochemical Laboratories, have now achieved that goal, he said.

Mitsubishi Kagaku has so far produced about 1,000 prototype discs, and Hitachi Maxell has also produced prototypes. Both companies are confident they can mass-produce HD-DVD-R discs with the same equipment they use to make DVD-R discs, he said.

Before the disc makers companies can gear up for production, the HD-DVD-R specification needs to be finalized by the DVD Forum, the standards body for the DVD format. This should be done within the next two months, according to Junko Furuta, a spokeswoman for Toshiba.

So far, only Mitsubishi Kagaku and Hitachi Maxell have said they'll make HD-DVD-R discs, but a number of disc makers who are members of the DVD-Forum are expected to announce production plans later, she said.

Toshiba plans to sell both HD-DVD recorders and PC drives compatible with the HD-DVD-R discs in Japan and the U.S. early next year, she said. Sanyo Electric plans to launch a recorder in 2006, it said.

The first HD-DVD-R discs are single-layer discs that will only record at 1x speed. Both Mitsubishi Kagaku and Hitachi Maxell are already looking to improve the discs' recording speed, and both want to develop a higher-capacity version, they said. Because of various technical limitations with the discs themselves, 8x is the maximum recording speed that can be developed for HD-DVD-R discs, Kawano said.

"Making the 2x type and the 4x type is not so difficult, but making the 8x type will need a more powerful laser and it will take more time," he said.

The 2x version could be ready in about a year from now, Ohsawa said.

A dual-layer, 30G-byte disc could take several years to develop, Kawano said.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Paul Kallender

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?