Battle looms over successor standard to DVD

Two competing technologies which enable more than 20G bytes of data to be stored on each side of an optical disk are nearing commercialization, leading to fears that the industry could be split between support for one format or the other.

Toshiba Corp. and NEC Corp. have proposed their Advanced Optical Disc (AOD) technology as a standard to the DVD Forum, a consortium of 212 companies. The forum is expect to settle on full specifications for AOD by the second quarter next year, said Hideyuki Irie, a DVD Forum official.

Earlier this year, the basic specifications for an alternative high-capacity standard known as Blu-Ray were announced by nine companies: Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., Royal Philips Electronics NV, Sony Corp., Hitachi Ltd., LG Electronics Inc., Pioneer Corp. Samsung Electric Co. Ltd., Sharp Corp. and Thomson Multimedia SA.

The AOD is based on a 405-nanometer-wavelength blue laser and can store up to 20G bytes of data on one side of a disc of the same size as a conventional DVD disc. AOD drives are expected to be commercially produced next year, according to Mitsumasa Fukumoto, an NEC spokesman.

Blu-Ray, which also uses a 405-nanometer blue laser, can store up to 27G bytes of data on one side or 50G bytes on two sides, and is expected to be commercialized soon but no targeted launching date is set, Sony's Tsuyoshi Sakaguchi said.

High-capacity DVD drives are expected to be in demand in Japan once high-definition broadcasting begins next year. The 20G-byte capacity is large enough to record about two hours of high-definition video.

The industry is concerned about a battle between the AOD and Blu-Ray standards in future, according to Irie.

"The forum has been trying to merge the two formats into one standard and hasn't given up on doing so, but technically speaking, it is very difficult unless each side approaches and compromises with each other," Irie said.

However, the forum sees little possibility of those approaches being made, Irie said.

The same standards issue exists in the conventional 4.7G-byte DVD world.

DVD has three main formats -- DVD-R/RW (DVD recordable/rewritable), DVD-RAM and DVD+R/RW. The first two are backed up by the DVD Forum, which also supports DVD Multi, a standard to comply DVD-R/RW and DVD-RAM. DVD+R/RW is supported by Sony Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. Mitsubishi Chemical Corp., Yamaha Corp. and Ricoh Co. Ltd.

Sony, which is also a DVD Forum member, recently unveiled a DVD-R/-RW/+R/+RW drive but not many companies from either side are planning to follow.

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