HD DVD Turns Up the Heat
The big news, announced May 10th by Toshiba Corporation in Las Vegas (the location chosen, perhaps, to show they're betting heavily on the format), is the development of a triple-layer HD DVD-ROM (read-only) disc with a data capacity of 45GB. Toshiba says the new triple-layer disc offers 50 percent more storage capacity than the previously announced dual-layer 30GB HD DVD-ROM. 45 GB (small potatoes for a hard drive, but great gobs of storage for a disc format) is said to be enough to hold 12 hours of high-definition movies (or close to six copies of Gigli!) on a single disc. The HD DVD format also includes a 15GB single-layer ROM disc for which you can figure out the triple-layer's percentage of increase in storage.
For those who like the word "hybrid" but don't yet own a Toyota Prius, Toshiba also announced a double-sided, dual-layer hybrid ROM disc that sandwiches a dual-layer HD DVD-ROM on one side and a dual-layer DVD-ROM on the other. The dual nature of the disc allows for 30GB of beautiful HD content storage on the dual-layer HD DVD-ROM side and 8.5 GB of not-so-good-looking standard-definition video on the DVD-ROM side. Toshiba feels that the backwards-compatible double-sided dual-layered double-disc will doubly seduce the buying public into smoothly (and gratefully) transitioning from plain old DVD to the awesome new HD DVD format. (Better buy some more shelving for your movie collection...)
Should you care, the multi-layer HD DVD disc structure is based on the same structure as today's DVD format which uses two 0.6-mm thick discs that are bonded back-to-back. Toshiba points out that Memory-Tech Corporation, Japan's largest independent disc replicator, has confirmed that both the triple-layer 45GB and the hybrid double-sided discs can be cranked out quickly and easily on their existing manufacturing equipment "with only minor additional investment and minimum additional production cost per disc." (One can only assume that the cost savings will be passed on to consumers...)
Regarding premature and irresponsible rumors of an impending single high-definition DVD format, Toshiba issued the following statement from the HD DVD war room in Tokyo:
Toshiba believes a single format for next generation DVD is most beneficial for consumers, and we are actively participating in talks towards format unification. At this point however, nothing has been decided, and absolutely no decision has been made for unification on any basis. The indication that a unification agreement on the basis of a 0.1mm disc system is imminent is unfounded and erroneous. Given this, Toshiba does not intend to make any proposal on unification to the members of the HD DVD Promotion Group.
We recognize that the key factors for a unified format are large capacity, reasonable cost, and backward compatibility with DVD that maximizes consumer benefit.
Toshiba will continue to be engaged in the dialogue on format unification.
Three studios trumpeted Toshiba's triple-layer HD DVD-ROM and hybrid disc developments. Warner Home Video (WHV) said that the new discs "reinforce an ideal next-generation HD solution, offering a strong combination of superior performance, proven cost efficiency, large storage capacity and compatibility with current DVD." Paramount Home Entertainment and Universal Studios Home Entertainment released statements containing suspiciously similar sentiments. (Can you say, "Copy and paste"?)
WHV's consumer research indicates that consumers like the idea of hybrid HD DVD discs. Seventy-seven 77 percent of the folks they talked to said they were interested in buying hybrid discs, taking them home, and trying to somehow open the 16 layers of anti-theft packaging (and then dreaming of the day when packaged media of today is looked upon in much the same way as yesterday's 8-track cassette...) Of the techo-losers who haven't yet gotten the HD religion and actually purchased an HDTV - but intend to buy one sometime over the course of the next 12 months - 89 percent say they're interested in hybrid discs. (But since they haven't bought an HDTV yet, who really cares about their opinion?)
If you've been keeping a scorecard of the HD DVD versus Blu-ray battle, mark one down in the HD DVD column.
But remember, it ain't over until the fat lady's disc spins...