The DVD Forum is meeting in Seattle this week with one of its goals being the approval of the first commercial version of the HD-DVD blue-laser based disc format aimed at high-definition television and movies.
If the forum approves the HD-DVD-ROM format, as expected by several people involved in its development, it will make official what has been looking increasingly likely for the last year: a battle between two formats and their supporting companies to become the de facto replacement for today's DVD.
Both of the new formats, HD-DVD and Blu-ray, are based on blue lasers. Blue light has a shorter wavelength than the red light used in CD and DVD systems, allowing the laser beam to make a smaller spot on the disc surface. With each bit of data taking up less space on the disc, more data can be stored on a 12cm disc.
As a result, discs can hold between 15Gb and 30Gb of data, depending on the variant of the format used, compared to current DVDs that can hold between 4.7Gb and 9.4Gb of data.
That extra space is important if discs of the same size as DVDs are to be used to distribute movies and other content in quality comparable to high-definition television (HDTV).
The main backers of the HD-DVD format are NEC and Toshiba.
If the format is approved this week as expected, the first commercial drives from NEC should be available in about a year, according to NEC.
The company plans to sell the drives to manufacturers of personal computers and also to consumer electronics companies for use in digital video players and recorders.
The competing format, Blu-ray, comes from a group of companies led by Sony and including Dell, HP, Hitachi, LG Electronics, Matsushita, Mitsubishi, Philips, Pioneer, Samsung, Sharp, TDK and Thomson.