Chinese electronics manufacturers this week launched a bold effort to breathe life into home-grown video disc technology, saying that by 2008 all their disc players should support the Beijing-backed “EVD” standard.

The effort follows a year of bitter competition between three local high-definition video disc standards, a period enhanced versatile disc supporters compare with China’s war-torn “Three Kingdoms” era in the third century AD.

It highlights the desire of Chinese officials and companies to play a greater role in setting industrial standards and reducing what many see as the technological hegemony enjoyed by foreign companies.

“China should support these national ventures . . . and give them all protection and consideration,” said Zhang Baoquan, secretary general of the Chinese EVD Industry Alliance.

However, the newly unified Chinese player industry could still struggle to fend off Sony’s Blu-ray and Toshiba-led HD-DVD standards, which are also intended to replace the hugely popular DVD format.

Beijing has officially approved EVDs as part of a broad-based effort to support homegrown standards that also includes support for a third 3G mobile telephony technology known as TD-SCDMA.

EVDs were launched in 2003 by Chinese home electronics manufacturers claiming to account for 30 per cent of global output of video disc players.

The intention was to give the local industry bargaining power that would help reduce and eventually eliminate the hefty licencing fees player producers have to pay to foreign patent holders.

However, marketing of the technology, which analysts say represents a modest advance over current DVDs, was undermined by the rival HDV and HVD standards pushed by other Chinese manufacturers.

Support from local disc producers, film companies and electronics stores has been patchy and in the meantime the more technologically advanced Blu-ray and HD-DVD formats have launched internationally.

This week, however, the alliance announced that all three standards would be combined and would be
supported by about 20 leading player manufacturers, including top brands Skyworth, Haier, Changhong, SVA and TCL. The manufacturers aim to make their players EVD-compatible by 2008.

“The most important thing for the EVD Industry Alliance is to bring together the high definition sector. Fighting back and forth like Three Kingdoms combatants not only confuses consumers but also hurts the industry,” Mr Zhang said.

Another alliance official said that local companies had finally realised that if they failed to stand together, Blu-ray or HD-DVD could conquer the Chinese market.

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