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Battle looms over successor standard to DVD

Two competing technologies which enable more than 20Gbytes of data to be stored on each side of an optical disc are nearing release, leading to fears that the industry could be split between support for one format or the other.

Toshiba and NEC have proposed their Advanced Optical Disc (AOD) technology as a standard to the DVD Forum, a consortium of 212 companies. The forum is expected to settle on full specifications for AOD by the second quarter of next year.

Earlier this year, the basic specifications for an alternative high-capacity standard, known as Blu-Ray, were announced by nine companies: Matsushita, Philips, Sony, Hitachi, LG, Pioneer, Samsung, Sharp and Thomson Multimedia.

The AOD is based on a 405-nanometer-wavelength blue laser and can store up to 20Gbytes of data on one side of a disc of the same size as a conventional DVD. AOD drives are expected to be available next year.

Blu-Ray, which also uses a 405-nanometer blue laser, can store up to 27Gbytes of data on one side or 50Gbytes on two sides. No launch date has been set, but Sony said the technology would be available soon.

High-capacity DVD drives are expected to be in demand in Japan once high-definition broadcasting begins next year. The 20Gbyte capacity is large enough to record about two hours of high-definition video.

The industry is now concerned about the potential battle between the AOD and Blu-Ray standards.

"The forum has been trying to merge the two formats into one standard and hasn't given up on doing so, but technically speaking, it is very difficult unless each side approaches and compromises with each other," said Hideyuki Irie, a DVD Forum official.

Irie said the forum saw little possibility of those approaches being made.

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