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updated 7/29/2004 7:39:22 PM ET 2004-07-29T23:39:22

Toshiba and its partners on Monday raised the tempo in the battle to determine the next-generation DVD format, saying they are on track to launch next year a DVD recorder capable of storing more than eight hours of high-resolution content on one DVD disc.

At the same time, Pony Canyon, Japan's largest distributor of pre-recorded DVD titles, announced it would launch movies in the Toshiba alliance’s HD DVD format “at an early stage next year.”

Microsoft’s Japanese unit, meanwhile, said the company’s next Windows-based operating system, called Longhorn, would be compatible with HD DVD.

The announcements are aimed at bolstering support for the HD DVD format, which is competing with Blu-ray disc technology to become the standard for next-generation DVD recorders.

Blu-ray disc technology is supported by most of the large consumer electronics manufacturers, including Sony and Matsushita, as well as PC makers Hewlett-Packard and Dell.

However, HD DVD is the only official format authorised and approved by the DVD Forum, an international association comprised of 220 consumer electronics, entertainment, software and other related companies, including those that have expressed support for the Blu-ray disc technology.

The stakes are high for both groups. The current generation DVD recorders, which use technology developed mainly by Toshiba and Matsushita, have helped to drive profits at Japan's large consumer electronics companies. More than 60m DVD players and recorders were produced worldwide last year, the HD DVD group said.

However, Hollywood studios whose support will be critical in supporting any new DVD format, have failed to indicate their preference -- with the exception of Sony Pictures, which plans to launch titles on Blu-ray discs in 2006.

Next-generation DVD recorders are expected to increase in popularity over the next few years as more people switch to high definition digital television.

Japan has already started high definition digital broadcasts, which cannot be recorded on current DVD discs due to a lack of storage capacity.

The HD DVD companies on Monday highlighted the advantages of their technology, which is compatible with current generation DVDs and therefore cheaper to make.

Memory-Tec said it is ready to mass-produce commercial HD DVD discs on a flexible convertible line that can switch between standard DVD and HD DVD production in five minutes.

Sony has already launched DVD recorders using Blue-ray disc technology, which offers 5.3 times the recording capacity of current DVDs. Matsushita will launch its own product at the end of the month, with twice the recording capacity. However, there is no pre-recorded content available yet.

Copyright The Financial Times Ltd. All rights reserved.

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