Time is running out for agreement on the future format of DVDs if companies are to hit product schedules.

Currently a format battle is taking place between HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc. Supporters of both formats agree that compromise would benefit the entire industry but talks have stalled and HD-DVD backers will soon need to begin final design and development of products if they are to meet their roll-out schedule.

Both formats can hold considerably more data than a DVD and are being promoted as replacements for DVD for high-definition movie content.

The HD-DVD group has committed to having products in the market before the end of 2005. It typically requires two to three months to bring a product to market from the beginning of design, so with just over four months left until the end of the year there's not much time for talk. Waiting longer would leave the market open for Blu-ray Disc.

"Our stance hasn't changed," said Junko Furuta, a spokeswoman for Toshiba, which is one of the main backers of HD-DVD. "We think a single format is best and we are still open to discussions."

Sony is a major backer of Blu-ray Disc and also claims to be open to discussions. A company spokesman said the Blu-ray Disc group's stance hasn't changed and that it continues to believe that its format is best for the future needs of the consumer electronics, computer gaming and PC data storage markets.

The prospect of a format battle, which is widely acknowledged to be against the interests of the entire IT and consumer electronics industry and its customers, has been around since late 2002 when Toshiba and NEC proposed their format, called Advanced Optical Disc at the time, to the DVD Forum several months after Blu-ray Disc was announced.

But it wasn't until earlier this year that a battle started getting taken more seriously. In April talks took place, but got nowhere.

At a news conference on 28 June, the new CEO of Toshiba, Atsutoshi Nishida, again called for talks. "We need to be willing to integrate," he said.

However, at present there are no talks taking place between the two sides, and executives appear to have given up hope of a compromise.

It's not just consumers that will lose out if such a contest does happen. Equipment makers will likely suffer lower sales because consumers are expected to put off purchases. Content producers such as movie studios will also likely lose out because of lower demand.