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Toshiba is pushing back the highly touted launch of its next generation HD DVD players due to delays in converting films to the new format.
The players, which were due to go on sale in the US next week, are now expected to reach store shelves in mid-April at the earliest.
It is the latest delay in a multi-billion dollar battle between Toshiba and a Sony consortium to set the standard for the next generation of film and video game discs. Last week, Sony said it would release its PlayStation3 console – which is the cornerstone of its efforts to establish its Blu-ray technology – until November, several months after it had initially planned.
Toshiba is in the midst of a 40-city US tour in an attempt to drum up enthusiasm for HD DVD. The company and its partners, including Microsoft and Intel, have been hoping that an early market debut will give HD DVD a head start against Blu-ray, which is also backed by Dell and most of the Hollywood movie studios.
Video players based on the HD DVD standard were originally due to be launched late last year but were delayed because of technical and other issues. Toshiba unveiled the first HD DVD players – including one priced at just $499 - at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.
Last week however, Time Warner’s Warner Home Video unit said it would not release the first titles using the HD-DVD format, including The Matrix Reloaded, Harry Potter 4 and Million Dollar Baby, until April 18.
That decision sparked speculation that Toshiba would have to delay the player launch once again – speculation that was confirmed on Thursday when the Japanese electronics group said it was, “currently working with the studios as well as our retailers, to finalise the sale date of our players.”
Toshiba added: “In order to maximise the launch of HD DVD, we intend to synchronise the launch of our players with HD DVD title releases.”
The delay, while perhaps only a few weeks, could add to the frustration of retailers who are already annoyed by the prospect of having to stock players based on two competing formats.
Meanwhile, Sony Pictures has said it aims to begin shipping the first movies based on the Blu-ray DVD format to US stores in late May to coincide with the entry of Blu-ray players from companies such as Samsung Electronics.
Both the HD DVD and Blu-ray formats provide much more capacity than the current generation of DVD discs, enabling movie makers to put an entire high definition movie together with interactive content on a single disc.
But while the backers of the two formats both claim their technology offers significant advantages, the failure of the two consortium to agree on a single standard has raised the prospect of another costly video format war like the one between VHS and Betamax in the 1980s.
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