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First HD-DVD players will support interactive

Toshiba moves to calm nervous customers

Looking to allay user concerns regarding its first two HD-DVD players, Toshiba said today that the players will support interactive functions present on the first-generation of HD-DVD discs.

Discussion forums and blogs have been buzzing about a possible lack of interactive support in the two players since late last week, when Toshiba's US arm issued a news release that said: "Firmware upgrade required for full interactive features."

Today Toshiba clarified the statement.

"Toshiba's first HD-DVD players will support the advanced content features called for by HD-DVD," said Junko Furuta, a company spokeswoman. She said the firmware upgrade will come into use when new features that aren't yet part of the interactive system are added.

"While our players will provide support for current HD-DVD advanced content from the start, we anticipate that the industry may add to these capabilities as HD-DVD continues to develop. Toshiba's players can be updated to support future applications and services, which may include downloading supplemental audio and video content, disc-related online shopping and other features yet to be imagined."

Toshiba is planning to launch its first two HD-DVD players in the US market in March. The players, which were unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, are the $500 (about £290) HD-A1 and the $800 (£460) HD-XA1.

Launch of the players had been threatened by the late development of a copy-protection system for the new format. Toshiba wasn't able to begin production of the players until an initial version of the copy-protection system, called AACS (Advanced Access Content System), was completed. The companies behind AACS last week published an interim version of the specification that allows Toshiba to begin manufacturing the players ahead of the March launch.

A 40-city tour of the US to promote HD-DVD and the players begins today.

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