Toshiba Corp. has developed a prototype HD-DVD disc that increases the format's storage capacity by 50 percent and brings it much closer to that of the rival Blu-ray Disc, the company said today.

The new disc has a capacity of 45GB, which is just under the 50GB offered by a dual-layer Blu-ray Disc, and will give content producers additional space to store longer high-definition movies or extras such as trailers, outtakes or interactive features.

Toshiba accomplished the capacity jump by adding an extra data storage layer to the disc. Each HD-DVD layer has a capacity of 15GB, and the new disc packs three such layers.

The company also announced a second prototype disc that uses the same basic technology. The hybrid disc combines a dual-layer HD-DVD with a dual-layer DVD to provide a double-sided disc that can be played in either HD-DVD or DVD players. The disc could be used as a transitional format, enabling consumers to buy discs for use in DVD players while building up a library of high-definition content for the time when they purchase an HD-DVD player.

More details of the two discs will be announced tomorrow at the Media-Tech Expo 2005 exhibition in Las Vegas.

The announcement could give Toshiba a boost in ongoing talks with Blu-ray Disc supporters Sony Corp. and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. (Panasonic) regarding a single, unified high-definition video disc standard.

The talks began earlier this year and are aimed at heading off what many expect will be a damaging format battle that will harm both consumers and the consumer electronics and entertainment industries.

The current state of the talks is unknown. (However, see Reuters' report below.) However, a report in this morning's edition of the Nihon Keizai Shimbun business daily said an agreement between the two sides could come as soon as next week. It reported that Toshiba, Sony and Panasonic are discussing using Toshiba's software technology and the Blu-ray Disc structure, the latter because of its greater storage capacity.

Toshiba reacted quickly to the report and said that "absolutely no decision has been made for unification on any basis" and called the report's claims "unfounded and erroneous."

Whatever the eventual outcome of the talks, time is running out for both sides.

The HD-DVD group said in January that it plans to have players and content available in U.S. stores in the last quarter of this year, and the first machine to support prerecorded Blu-ray Disc is expected to be announced next week, when Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. shows off a prototype of its next-generation PlayStation 3. The console and other Blu-ray Disc players aren't expected to be commercially available until 2006.

Reuters' Report
DVD format talks lean to Blu-ray technology

Talks between Japan's Sony Corp. and Toshiba Corp. to unify next-generation DVD formats are leaning toward a disc structure supported by Sony, a source close to the matter said today.

Sony and Toshiba, heading rival groups, have waged a three-year war to have their new technology standards adopted by the industry and gain pole position in the multi-billion-dollar markets for DVD players, PC drives and optical discs.

But the companies said last month they were in talks to develop a common standard, in a move to avoid VHS/Betamax-like dual formats that could discourage consumers from shifting to advanced discs and stifle the industry's growth.

Sony's Blu-ray technology is backed by a group including Dell Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Philips Electronics NV and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., maker of Panasonic products.

The source said a unified format based on Blu-ray's disc structure was being discussed in the talks, held between Sony, Toshiba and Matsushita.

He added, however, it was unclear whether and when the two sides would reach a final agreement on a common format.

The Nihon Keizai newspaper said earlier that Sony and Toshiba were in final talks eyeing a new format based on Blu-ray's disc structure and Toshiba's software for efficient data transfer and copyright protection.

In Blu-ray, a layer to hold data is put on the surface of a substrate and covered by thin protective layers, while in HD DVD discs, which are supported by Toshiba, a memory layer is sandwiched between two substrates.

The two sides agree that it would be best for consumers to have a common format, but shifting to a rival standard could mean a delay in product development and the commercial launch, making unification difficult.

Toshiba, which supports HD DVD technology along with NEC Corp. and Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd., said in a statement nothing had been decided on the unified format.

At the core of both formats are blue lasers, which have a shorter wavelength than the red lasers used in current DVD equipment, allowing discs to store data at the higher densities needed for high-definition movies and television.

Member companies in the Blu-ray camp are set to meet in Tokyo next week to discuss technological and promotional matters.