Green Light for HD-DVD

HD-DVD is ahead by a nose in its race against Blu-ray. On Wednesday, February 25, the 20-member steering committee of the DVD Forum voted to approve technology developed by Toshiba and NEC for use in the coming generation of high density/high definition DVD recorders.

The committee approved a read-only version of the system in November. The latest vote removes one of the last hurdles to commercial product development; Toshiba and NEC said they would probably introduce HD-DVD recorders for consumers sometime next year.

The two partners are contending with a rival format called Blu-ray, backed by a 12-member consortium led by Sony Corporation, Matsushita Electric Industrial Company and Hewlett-Packard. Both teams have developed prototype discs and recorders, but the Blu-ray group hasn't won approval by the DVD Forum. Both formats claim the ability to capture data-intense high-definition television programming on standard optical discs. HD-DVD won approval by the Forum's steering committee because it would require less retooling by manufacturers. The Blu-ray group is a splinter faction within the DVD Forum, and hasn't submitted its format for approval.

It appears that Microsoft will have its finger in every HD-DVD pie. On Friday, February 27, the DVD Forum steering committee voted for preliminary approval to include Microsoft's video compression technology in specifications for HD-DVD playback. Microsoft's VC-9, the decoding technology in Windows Media Video, will probably be included in the final HD-DVD specification, as well as two other video technologies, H.264 and MPEG-2. Final approval should come within 60 days as licensing agreements are ironed out.

In other news, NEC is exiting the organic light emitting display (OLED) business. On February 27, the Tokyo-based technology pioneer announced that its partnership with Samsung would officially end March 1. In January 2001, the two formed a joint venture, Samsung NEC Mobile Display Co., Ltd. (SNMD) to develop OLED technology for consumer applications. In dissolving the partnership, NEC will transfer OLED patents to Samsung. The move follows NEC's recent sale of its plasma manufacturing division to Pioneer, and marks the end of NEC's involvement in the consumer flat-panel display business.