Toshiba opens up next-gen features for HD DVD

  • Wayne (NJ) - Downloading bonus content from a movie studio, sending clips to other HD DVD players, and voting in interactive polls are all possible with Toshiba's latest update to the HD DVD architecture.

    All HD DVD players have an Ethernet port to connect to the Internet, or in the case of the Xbox 360 add-on, it connects to the same Internet connection as the console.  Users can now download the latest firmware update, which adds the capability to connect online for additional interactive features.

    The first disc to make use of the new feature is volume one of the anime series Freedom, which is available now.  From the disc's menu, users can connect online to vote in interactive polls and check on the results later.

    Warner's movie Blood Diamond will offer the same feature when it's released on July 3.  However, Toshiba says the possibilities with the new firmware go far beyond web-powered polls.

    A movie studio could put a bonus feature on a dedicated server that can only be accessed through an HD DVD Internet connection.  The studio could also put its latest movie trailers on the same server and let users watch them from any disc, regardless of how old the movie is.

    At this year's CES press event, Toshiba also showed the possibility of marking clips of a movie in real-time and then sending that video to another HD DVD player over the Net.

    This move emphasizes HD DVD's main goal from the beginning.  It wants to offer users the most interactive experience possible, as a way to separate itself from the competing Blu-ray format.  It's becoming a tougher battle every month, though, as HD DVD continues to lose ground.

    Earlier this month, Blockbuster decided to stock Blu-ray titles in all of its retail locations but opted to pass on HD DVD.  The Toshiba-led format also has yet to beat Blu-ray in monthly sales figures, although Toshiba claims HD DVD is the leader in standalone hi-def disc players.  The Playstation 3 counts for more than 75% of all Blu-ray players.