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More From The Floor At CES

Wandering around the show floor I stumbled upon a small stand showing off HD-DVD hardware. HD-DVD is the competing format to Blu-Ray Discs. Yep, you’ve got it, there’s another standards war on the horizon.

Toshiba prototype HD-DVD player

HD-DVD has been ratified by the DVD Forum, but only in ROM format at the moment. The discussions on the re-writable future format are still ongoing, and considering that many of the major players in the DVD Forum as backing Blu-Ray it could be a protracted process.

Toshiba prototype HD-DVD recorder.

However, even if HD-DVD wins the approval of the DVD Forum in both ROM and re-writable formats it won’t really mean anything. As we’ve seen, despite being a break from the DVD Forum and a late entry to market, DVD+R/RW has been a major success and managed to live up to much of the extended pre-launch hype.

It’s a blue laser. Much prettier than those common old red ones.

The big names behind HD-DVD are Toshiba and NEC, and there were prototype machines from both companies on the stand. Strangely, there was no press information available whatsoever, which was a little surprising considering that Blu-Ray had arranged a press conference earlier in the week.

HD-DVD media looking much like DVD, which of course looks much like CD.

One major advantage that Blu-Ray has over HD-DVD is capacity. The HD-DVD ROM discs can store only 15GB per layer, while the re-writable discs can store 20GB. Blu-Ray discs on the other hand can store 25GB per layer in both ROM and re-writable flavours. When it comes to recording or distributing high definition video, that extra capacity could make all the difference.

PC drives like this prototype from NEC will be paramount to any format success.

Ultimately though it’s clear that we’re in for another confusing time for consumers. On the plus side, both formats will be backward compatible with DVD playback, so whichever format you buy into, you’ll still be able to watch your DVD collection.

Like Blu-Ray, HD-DVD products are expected in 2005. Hitting the market first will be a big advantage, but it won’t ensure success.

In a break from tradition the rewritable discs have a higher capacity than ROM discs.

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