Next-Gen DVDs: Coming Soon?

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The group of companies behind the DVD format has approved a next-generation rewritable optical disc that is the same size as existing DVDs but can hold more than four times the amount of data.

The rewritable HD-DVD (High Definition and High Density-DVD) format was approved as the DVD Forum kicked off its general meeting in Tokyo this week, according to an official at one of the group's founding members. It specifies a 4.7-inch optical disc that can store up to 20GB of data on a single-sided disc compared to 4.7GB on existing DVDs. The format has been largely developed by Toshiba and NEC and a read-only version of HD-DVD, which can hold 15GB of data, was approved late last year.

Format Wars

Approval of the format marks a further step towards a format battle that is expected to see at least four incompatible technologies battling in the computer data storage market.

Currently, the format with the largest number of backers is Blu-ray Disc, for which 12 companies sit on the format committee. Until recently it was targeted at recording of high-definition video, although the addition of Hewlett-Packard and Dell to the format steering committee earlier this year is expected to result in a widening of its target market to include the computing space.

Sony, a prime supporter of Blu-ray Disc, has also developed Professional Disc. The format is available in two variants and is targeted at the specific markets of high-definition broadcast quality video and data archiving and storage. U.K.-based Plasmon has also launched its own format called UDO (Ultra Density Optical), which is also targeted at the data archiving and storage market as a replacement for MO (Magneto Optical) discs.

Storage Space

While all four formats are physically incompatible, they all realize a large jump in data storage because of the same blue laser technology. Blue light has a shorter wavelength than the red light used in CD and DVD systems and so the laser beam makes a smaller spot on the disc surface. That means each bit of data takes up less space on the disc and so more data can be stored on a disc.

The current meeting, which ends on Friday, also marks the expansion of the DVD Forum's steering committee to 20 members with the addition of Microsoft and a unit of Walt Disney.

The full member list is: Hitachi, IBM, Industrial Technology Research Institute (Taiwan), Intel, LG Electronics, Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic), Microsoft, Mitsubishi Electric, NEC, Pioneer, Koninklijke Philips Electronics, Samsung Electronics, Sanyo Electric, Sharp, Sony, Thomson, Time Warner, Toshiba, Victor of Japan (JVC), and Walt Disney Pictures and Television.

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