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Toshiba delays U.S. launch of HD DVD player

Japan's Toshiba Corp. is delaying its launch of next-generation HD DVD players in the U.S. market to around February or March.
/ Source: Reuters

Japan's Toshiba Corp. said on Wednesday it is delaying its launch of next-generation HD DVD players in the U.S. market to around February or March, revising its plan for a year-end start date.

Toshiba and Sony Corp., leading rival camps, have waged a three-year battle to have their different standards adopted for next-generation DVD technology, which promises much greater capacity for high-definition movies.

Toshiba, along with NEC Corp. and Sanyo Electric Co., has been promoting the HD DVD format, while Sony and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. have been developing a technology known as Blu-ray.

"We have been discussing with content holders the most effective way to launch in the U.S. market, and it will probably be in February or March," Toshiba Corporate Senior Vice President Yoshihide Fujii told a news conference.

Japan's second-largest electronics conglomerate said it and content holders such as film studios believe it would be best to start sales of HD DVD players in the United States on a wide scale rather than gradually

It said it would take several months to build up inventories after starting mass-production in mid-December.

Toshiba had originally said it planned to launch HD DVD players in the fourth quarter of 2005 in both Japan and the United States, while Sony plans to put a Blu-ray disc drive in its new PlayStation game console to go on sale next year.

Toshiba said it still plans to introduce HD DVD players in the Japanese market by the year-end.

Toshiba won powerful support on Monday when Microsoft Corp. and Intel Corp. announced that their products would support the HD DVD format, dealing a major blow to the Sony-led Blu-ray camp.

Microsoft and Intel, the world's largest software maker and top chip maker, said the HD DVD format would make it easier for consumers to copy high-definition movies to computer hard drives.

The two sides in the format battle tried to forge a common format earlier this year, without success, to avoid confusion and inconvenience to consumers such as occurred as a result of the VHS-Beta battle over videocassette formats two decades ago.

"We will make all possible efforts to unify the format for consumers' sake," Fujii said, adding that the two sides were not currently in discussion.

Among Hollywood film studios, whose support is critical for the success of any DVD format, Warner Bros. Studios, New Line Cinema, Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures endorse HD DVD, while Blu-ray supporters include Sony Pictures, Walt Disney Co. and Twentieth Century Fox, a unit of News Corp.

Toshiba also said it aimed to introduce surface conduction electron emitter display (SED) panels jointly manufactured with Canon Inc. in Japan by March 2006.

Fujii said Toshiba had aimed for launches at the same time in Japan and the United States, but now it plans to delay the U.S. launch by one or two quarters so the products will hit the market when sales can be maximised.