Sony to acquire HD-DVD know-how through joint-venture with NEC

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Tokyo (Japan) - While Sony maintains its support for Blu-ray and the company cannot be expected to change its position in the foreseeable future, the company has laid the foundation to have access to the competing HD-DVD format as well. An optical disc drive joint-venture with NEC, one of the leading developers of such drives, could become a safety net for Sony - just in case Blu-ray fails.

Sony's announcement comes just about a month after we learned that Toshiba, the main proponent behind HD-DVD could have access to Blu-ray through a joint-venture with Samsung: TSST (Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology) is currently developing a Blu-ray drive for Samsung, which is scheduled to announce the device in the US sometime in Q2 of this year.

The new manufacturing company to be founded on 3 April of this year will be named "Sony NEC Optiarc" and will be developing, producing and marketing "optical disc drive products" for NEC and Sony. According to the parent companies, Sony will hold 55% of the firm, NEC the remaining 45%. Sony NEC Optiarc is estimated to hit about $1.9 billion in sales in its first year of operation.

Sony representatives did not return our inquiries, whether Sony will be actually marketing and selling HD-DVD drives. However, we can speculate, that Sony may have similar intentions with Sony NEC Optiarc as does Toshiba with TSST, in which Toshiba holds a 51% share. Last month a Toshiba spokeswoman told us that "at this moment Toshiba has no commercialization plan of Blu-ray products."

While both Sony and Toshiba have not left the HD disc battlefield and maintain their support for their respective technology, both companies appear to be covering their bases at this time.

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