Toshiba has developed a prototype HD DVD disc that increases the format's storage capacity by 50 percent and brings it much closer to that of the rival Blu-ray Disc.
The new disc has a capacity of 45GB, which is just under the 50GB offered by a dual-layer Blu-ray Disc. The added capacity removes one of the clear advantages Blu-ray Disc held over HD DVD, and gives content producers plenty of space to store longer high-definition movies or extra content such as trailers, outtakes or interactive features.
Toshiba accomplished the capacity jump by adding an extra data storage layer to the disc. Each HD DVD layer has a capacity of 15GB and the new disc packs three such layers.
The company also announced a second prototype disc that uses the same basic technology. The hybrid disc combines a dual-layer HD DVD with a dual-layer DVD to provide a double-sided disc that can be played in either HD DVD or DVD players.
Such a disc could be a benefit to consumers in the early days of HD DVD. A hybrid disc could be used as a transitional format enabling consumers to buy discs for use in current DVD players while building up a library of high-definition content for the time when they purchase an HD DVD player.
The capacity announcement could give Toshiba a boost in ongoing talks with Blu-ray Disc supporters Sony and Panasonic regarding a single, unified high-definition video disc standard.
The talks began earlier this year and are aimed at heading off what many expect will be a damaging format battle that will harm both consumers and the consumer electronics and entertainment industries.
The current state of the talks is unknown. However, a report in the Tuesday morning edition of the Nihon Keizai Shimbun business daily said an agreement between the two sides could come as soon as next week.
It reported that Toshiba, Sony, and Panasonic are discussing using Toshiba's software technology and the Blu-ray Disc structure, the latter because of its greater storage capacity.
Toshiba reacted fast to the report and said "absolutely no decision has been made for unification on any basis" and called the report's claims "unfounded and erroneous."
Whatever the eventual outcome of the talks, time is running out for both sides.
The HD DVD camp, led by Toshiba and NEC, said in January that it plans to have players and content available in the last quarter of this year.
Meanwhile, next week Sony Computer Entertainment will show off a prototype of its next-generation PlayStation 3; the console will be the first machine for worldwide distribution that will support prerecorded Blu-ray Disc.
The console and other Blu-ray Disc players aren't expected to be commercially available until 2006.