CEBIT: Blu-ray backer LG preparing HD-DVD drive

LG Electronics Inc., one of the main backers of the Blu-ray Disc format, has started working on a player for the rival HD-DVD format, the company said at the Cebit trade show in Hanover, Germany, on Friday.

Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD are new optical-disc formats that are being positioned as replacements for DVD for high-definition content. Both formats are planned for launch in the first half of this year. Discs for one won’t work on players designed for the other so consumers face a choice between the two or waiting until a clear victor in the battle emerges.

“We are still behind Blu-ray Disc,” said Annegees van Ligne, a spokeswoman for the company, “but we are preparing an HD-DVD player.”

The move makes LG the latest Blu-ray Disc supporter to shift position. In late 2005 Hewlett-Packard Co. said it would also support HD-DVD. LG stressed that its main support still lies with Blu-ray Disc, but that it’s working on an HD-DVD player in case that format proves popular.

At present it’s difficult to pick a likely winner in the battle. Both sides trumpet their technology as superior to the competition but all of the pieces are yet to be put in place. For example, issues such as region coding are yet to be decided and details are still being worked out on copy protection or other issues that could have an impact on user preference.

In terms of price the HD-DVD format appears to have the edge among the first group of players. Toshiba Corp. is planning to launch two HD-DVD players in the U.S. in March for US$500 and $800 while the cheapest Blu-ray Disc players yet disclosed will cost $1,000 when they hit shelves in May.

Blu-ray Disc is backed by a group headed by Sony Corp. that also includes Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. (Panasonic), Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Hitachi Ltd., LG Electronics, Mitsubishi Electric Corp., Philips Electronics NV, Pioneer Electronics Corp., Sharp Corp., TDK Corp. and Thomson Multimedia SA.

The HD-DVD format is backed by a smaller number of major consumer electronics brands but has the backing of the DVD Forum, the group behind the DVD format. It’s major backers include Toshiba Corp., NEC Corp., Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd., Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp.

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