New dispute in tech for next-gen DVDs

Updated: Nov 21 2005, 05:30am hrs
The battle for who will control the standards for the next generation of DVDs became more tangled when the Blu-ray Disc group said that it would not adopt technology requested by one of its leading members, the Hewlett-Packard Co.

Last month, Hewlett said it would consider quitting the Blu-ray group, which is led by the Sony Corp. and Panasonic, if it did not honor its request that certain copy protection and interactive software be included in the standard for the discs, which promise better audio and visual quality and more data storage.

The software that Hewlett favors has been adopted into the rival standard that Toshiba and others have developed. One technology that Hewlett favors is called mandatory managed copy and lets users legally copy DVDs.

The other, known as iHD, allows for interactive features and will be included in an operating system being developed by Microsoft, which supports Toshibas standard.

But, last week the spokesman of the Blu-ray group, Andy Parsons, told Reuters that his group would use different software technology known as Java that was developed by Sun Microsystems. While the Blu-ray group was willing to consider Hewletts request, it was unwilling to make the changes to its standard if it meant delaying the introduction of new Blu-ray products next year, Parsons said. Parsons said that mandatory managed copy would be part of Blu-ray format, but while He-wletts request for interactivity was being considered, at this point in time, the Blu-ray group is still proceeding down the path of Java. The Blu-ray group could change course and adopt the additions that Hewlett wants.

But for now, Hewlett is a step closer to having to decide whether to leave the Blu-ray group, and join forces with the Toshiba group or potentially produce products in both standards. If Hewlett leaves the Blu-ray group, it could put pressure on Dell, another Blu-ray member, to follow. This would provide a huge lift to Toshiba, which has recently lost ground to the Blu-ray group in the battle for allies in Hollywood and Silicon Valley.

Negotiations over the architecture of the rival DVD technologies have been primarily between the Hollywood studios producing the content for the discs and consumer electronics manufacturers that will make the machinery to play them. But Microsoft, Intel and computer makers have added their voice to debate because they build DVD players and recorders into their PCs. Microsoft and Intel have formally backed Toshibas HD-DVD standard because they said it is more computer friendly.

-NY TIMES