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Sony and Toshiba discussing joint HD standard

Industry source tells of new round of diplomacy

The two leading backers of rival next-generation HD (high-definition) optical disc standards, Sony and Toshiba, are actively discussing the possibility of a single format, an industry source said today.

The discussions are at an early stage and Sony and Toshiba, which support the Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD formats respectively, have yet to come up with an agreement on a single format, the source said.

Should they manage to agree on a single format, and gain the acceptance of other companies backing the respective formats, it would benefit both consumers and the electronics and entertainment industries.

A single format would mean consumers won't have to gamble when they buy a high-definition video player on whether the format will still be around in the future. It would also mean all high-definition movies are available on the same format and they might be cheaper because the market wouldn't be split.

The industry stands to immediately gain from a single format because the confusion or worry over duelling formats would be removed.

Video players for HD-DVD are expected on the market in the fourth quarter of this year along with several dozen movies, according to the most recent plans. The rival Blu-ray Disc format isn't expected until 2006 when players and movies will become available. The system will also be used in Sony's next-generation PlayStation console, which is also expected to be able to play movies and be launched next year.

The two companies wouldn't confirm or deny that talks are taking place.

Sony said in a statement that it remains open to discussions with supporters of other formats.

"The door isn't shutting, it's the opposite," said Taro Takamine, a spokesman for Sony in Tokyo. He said the ability to expand the Blu-ray Disc format has always been one of its key points and that Sony would be open to talks if there was the possibility of creating a better solution for consumers.

Toshiba repeated its belief that a single format would be most beneficial for consumers and said it will work towards that goal.

"We will also engage in necessary discussions," said Keisuke Ohmori, a Toshiba spokesman in Tokyo.


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