Microsoft, Toshiba team to advance HD DVD navigation

The next-generation DVD format wars added a new front after Microsoft and Toshiba announced a consortium that aims to extend interactive features on HD DVDs.

Toshiba and Microsoft this week announced plans to launch the Advanced Interactivity Consortium to extend interactive features in HD DVD, a high-definition format, in an effort to attract more users.

Both companies are stout HD DVD supporters. Microsoft offers an HD DVD player add-on for its Xbox 360 gaming console and Toshiba is integrating HD DVD drives in its PCs. The rival format, Blu-ray Disc, is supported by Sony and movie studios Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and The Walt Disney Co.

The consortium will be a platform for companies to collaborate on improving the digital home entertainment experience and bringing advanced interactive features, including Web-enabled features, to digital downloads that go to DVDs, PCs, gaming consoles and cell phones.

Bringing companies together will ensure interoperability of HD DVD players and services, said Hisatsugu Nonaka, corporate executive vice president for Toshiba, in a news release.

Microsoft's XML-based HDi development environment creates an interactive layer for HD DVD movies. HDi, supported by the HD DVD players and media, is currently a mandatory feature across players to keep the consumer experience consistent, said Richard Doherty, principal program manager lead of the consumer media technology group at Microsoft.

Microsoft hopes to collaborate with other consortium members on extending interactive capabilities to digital download services, said Robbie Bach, president of Entertainment and Devices Division at Microsoft, in the release.

The consortium had no specific announcements related to improved HD DVD interactive features.

The announcement fuels an already heated battle between the HD DVD and Blu-ray formats as the next generation high-definition DVD standard. Sales of Blu-ray exceeded HD DVD in the first half of 2007 by 2 to 1 in the U.S., according to data from Home Media Research.

The consortium includes movie studios DreamWorks Animations SKG, Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios and Warner Bros Entertainment. Universal this week announced HD DVD movies with interactive features that provide access to online features such as bonus scenes and online communities that allow users to dive deeper into the movies.

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