Dual DVD, HD-DVD disc developed

Memory-Tech will start mass production late next year of read-only discs that can contain data stored in both DVD and HD-DVDs (High Definition/High Density-DVDs) layers, a company executive said Wednesday.

The new discs could help Hollywood studios and other content providers in their anticipated transition to the new HD-DVD format. HD-DVD is being developed to replace DVD for high-definition content.

The discs contain two layers, an upper DVD layer with a capacity of 4.7G bytes and a lower HD-DVD layer with a15G-byte capacity, said Masato Otsuka, general manager of Memory-Tech's engineering department.

Mass production will start in October or November next year, which is about the same time as the company plans to produce read-only HD-DVDs. The company has six lines that can each produce up to 700,000 of these kinds of discs per month.

The discs will help popularize the HD-DVD format for consumers and encourage them to purchase HD-DVD players, according to Memory-Tech and Toshiba, which jointly-developed the high-capacity technology.

Last month, Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema all said that they would release titles on the HD-DVD format. Universal pledged it would have content available during the end-of-year holiday season in 2005.

Memory-Tech has already produced prototypes of the new type of discs and tested them in about 200 DVD players, including DVD recorders and PC drives. But it will take up to six months for the specifications for the discs to be completed, said Otsuka.

Memory-Tech and Toshiba are to meet the DVD Forum, the group in charge of the DVD and HD-DVD specifications, before the end of the year to start discussions on getting the new disc's specifications settled. Because the DVD specifications are well-known, and the final specifications for HD-DVD are to be completed by the end of February 2005, finalizing the new specification should not be difficult, he said.

"We don't see any technical or political problems," said Otsuka.

Toshiba, together with NEC and Sanyo Electric which are also backing the HD-DVD specification, all plan to have hardware on shelves at about the same time at the end of next year. These products include a sub-US$1,000 HD-DVD player by Toshiba and hard drives for PCs coming from NEC.

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