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Toshiba: sub-£500 HD DVD notebook coming soon

It's all just optical disc history repeating itself

Two high-definition disc formats may be slugging it out for dominance, but Toshiba sees HD DVD adoption following a trajectory similar to other optical disc formats before it.

Just as DVD gained momentum first as a combo DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive, HD DVD will see its early momentum from HD DVD-ROM/DVD SuperMulti writer drives, according to Toshiba. Even though a slim writer was announced in January at CES and has shipped in Japan, Pinto says he doesn't expect HD DVD burners to gain steam until 2009 or 2010.

"We see history repeating itself," Carl Pinto, vice president of product development and product management at Toshiba, told an audience during a presentation at the DVD Forum conference in Los Angeles this week.

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Since HD DVD was first installed on a Toshiba Qosmio earlier this year, prices have fallen precipitously on notebooks equipped with an HD DVD drive. That early notebook debuted at $3,000; today's prices hover at around $1500.

By the end of the year, in time for Christmas, said Pinto, "you'll be able to buy notebook computers at retail stores for under $1000."

The price drops can be attributed to the normal technology march known as Moore's Law. In the past year, the progression of the underlying technology required for a DVD drive has been impressive. For example, a notebook that cost $3000 at the start of the year required about $400 in components (excluding the cost of the HD DVD drive - a detail Toshiba is not surprisingly mum about) to handle HD DVD decoding, including the CPU and a graphics processor on a dedicated graphics card.

By this autumn, the mix of components necessary shifted to a CPU with integrated graphics processor and a hardware decoder, all for under $200. When winter 2008 rolls around, Toshiba expects to be able cut that price about in half again.

"Our goal for the third quarter of 2008 is to bring that cost down to under $100," Pinto said. "We believe that using improvements in CPUs and graphics subsystems, we can reduce the cost of playing back HD DVD."

Toshiba plans to make HD DVD an option on most all of its notebook PCs over the course of the coming year. The company estimates more than 5 million HD DVD drives will ship on notebook PCs in the coming year as the technology becomes more accessible and the price becomes more affordable.

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