Thomson to back Blu-ray, HD-DVD formats

Thomson SA, one of the core backers of the Blu-ray Disc format for high-definition video discs, plans to offer players supporting the rival HD-DVD format and disc duplication services for both formats.

The company is one of Europe's largest electronics brands and a founding member of the consortium that is promoting the Blu-ray Disc format. The format and its competitor offer several times the storage capacity of current DVDs and are being positioned to succeed DVD for the storage of high-definition video.

"We're a founding member [of the Blu-ray Disc Association], so we are involved with that format, but we are a little more advanced on the HD-DVD [disc production] front," said Monica Coull, a spokeswoman for Thomson in Paris. Thomson offers disc reproduction services through its Technicolor business.

"We'll be ready with the HD-DVD at the end of 2005. For Blu-ray, I don't think the time frame is as advanced," she said.

Thomson's announcement marks the first time that a Blu-ray Disc board member has announced plans to support HD-DVD and adds another layer of complexity to the battle between the two standards.

Blu-ray Disc counts 15 major backers on its board and offers single-layer discs of 25GB capacity and dual-layer discs of double that. HD-DVD has a lesser number of electronics companies behind the format and its discs are lower capacity at around 15GB for a single-layer disc.

HD-DVD players for movies are likely to be on the market before the end of 2005 before comparable Blu-ray Disc movie players, according to current commercialization plans. Disc production costs for HD-DVD are likely to be lower, say disc makers.

To date, HD-DVD has picked up support from four major content producers: Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Studios, Universal Pictures and New Line Cinema. Until this week the only major movie studio to announce support for Blu-ray Disc was Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures unit. Earlier this week The Walt Disney Co. and its Buena Vista Home Entertainment division threw their weight behind the format.

In addition to Thomson, the other Blu-ray Disc board members are Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Hitachi Ltd., Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV, LG Electronics Inc., Mitsubishi Electric Corp., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. (Panasonic), Pioneer Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Sharp Corp., Sony Corp., TDK Corp., Twentieth Century Fox and Walt Disney Pictures and Television.

The largest companies behind HD-DVD are Toshiba Corp., NEC Corp. and Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd. and it's also backed by the DVD Forum.

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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