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Last year Toshiba presented its Gigastyle range for the first time and we looked at its Gigabeat audio player during the year. This year Toshiba has decided to break new ground with a new flash based drives with either 512MB or 1GB capacity. They sport a 96x96 OLED screen, play WMA, WAV and MP3 and have an FM radio with voice recorder. It sounds like an iPod shuffle but with a colour screen. (Apologies for the lack of images right now but these players weren’t on show at the press conference - I’ll try and pop by the booth and grab some shots).

It’s amazing to think that in this digital age there is still a need for tape based media. But when it comes to DV, that’s still very much the case. Now Toshiba has also re-entered the camcorder market with a hard-disc based device. It captures to MPEG2 and you can fit 6.8 hours of Super High-Quality on the 30GB hard disk model. There’s a 60GB version too. Software is included for easy burning to DVD in just three clicks. (Same again with the image).

But the big news was the announcement that everyone had been waiting for and the reason the press conference was so packed out. Toshiba is probably the most vocal backer of the HD-DVD format, and was expected to launch at the end of last year. But it has now chosen to announce the format and two players that will start shipping in March 2006 in the US.

These are the $799 HD-XA1 and the $499 HD-A1. The next generation optical format war has officially begun. However, when I asked, no one would give any dates for a European launch. I was told however that the format would support MPEG2, H.264 and WMV VC9 and that it was up to the studios to decide which it wanted to use for its releases.

Toshiba also said that its next Qosmio Media Center notebook would feature a HD-DVD drive as well as a dual-core processor and an improved Tru-Brite screen.

At the end of the conference there was quite a lot of buzz about the players and many photographers crowded round to take a look.

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