Talks stall over next-generation DVD standardization
The Asahi Shimbun
Talks between two rival camps over the standardization of next-generation DVD formats have stalled over a disagreement about disc structures.
The group led by Sony Corp. and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. wants to adopt the key features of its Blu-ray Disc format, which writes data on a layer 0.1 millimeter below the disc's surface.
Toshiba Corp., which heads the rival HD-DVD camp, initially signaled its intention to play along, but has since become wary of making one-sided concessions in the face of the hard stance taken by its Blu-ray rivals, sources said.
Toshiba officials contend they will not compromise on the disc structure unless the Sony-Matsushita group clearly demonstrates that the Blu-ray technology is at least as advantageous as the lower-cost HD-DVD structure.
HD-DVDs contain data on a layer 0.6 mm from the surface, the same depth as current DVDs, and can therefore be produced using existing production equipment.
When the two camps started standardization talks in early March, Toshiba showed its willingness to compromise, albeit conditionally.
``We are willing to agree to the 0.1-mm structure, depending on certain provisions,'' a senior Toshiba official told a Sony counterpart.
A source close to the negotiations said Toshiba's signals for a possible compromise on the key issue paved the way for serious standardization discussions.
The two sides had sought to strike a deal by mid-May, when Sony is scheduled to unveil details of its next-generation PlayStation video game console at a trade fair in the United States.
Successful sales of the new PlayStation would also benefit Toshiba, which co-developed with Sony the semiconductor chips used in the machine.
Sony had already announced it would adopt the Blu-ray format for software titles for the new PlayStation.
The deadline is now likely to be missed as the two groups are at loggerheads.
The Sony-Matsushita side wants an agreement on the 0.1-mm-deep data layer before moving on to other specifics.
The Blu-ray camp remains confident it will prevail because it has a larger number of supporters, including Dell Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.
The Blu-ray technology makes it easier to shift to a multilayer structure for larger memory capacities. There are fewer errors during readings of high-density data the closer the layer is to the surface.
Toshiba is unwilling to readily abandon the HD-DVD technology, whose supporters include NEC Corp., Sanyo Electric Co. and some Hollywood film studios.
A senior Toshiba official says the Blu-ray camp needs to demonstrate that the 0.1-mm structure has enough advantages to justify shifting from the cheaper HD-DVD structure.
Toshiba announced on May 10 that it has developed a larger-capacity version of the HD-DVD.
A senior Toshiba official said the company would not have announced the triple-layer HD-DVD technology if the two sides had reached an agreement on a standardized disc format.
In response to the development of the 45-gigabyte disc, the Blu-ray camp has maintained that a four-layer Blu-ray disc that could hold 100 GB can be developed.
The Toshiba side countered by saying it doubts there would be demand for such a huge capacity disc.(IHT/Asahi: May 14,2005)