Microsoft, Intel support for HD DVD may be limited to promotion, not standards

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Microsoft, Intel support for HD DVD may be limited to promotion, not standards

Redmond (WA) – During a day in which Microsoft announced a highly-publicized alliance with PDA manufacturer Palm, and Intel announced two new low-power Xeon processors, the two companies also quietly announced their support for the HD DVD next-generation high-definition video disc format, championed by Toshiba.

In a joint statement, the companies cited the capability for consumers to make backup copies of legally obtained HD DVD discs; the capability for producers to make “hybrid discs” that play conventional DVD content in existing players, and high-definition content in new players; plus the lower ramp-up costs for disc manufacturers upgrading and retooling their factories. Competing with HD DVD to become the “estandard of choice” among consumers is Blu-ray, which is championed by Sony and which represents a more extensive transition cost for both manufacturers and, perhaps, consumers.

However, as Tom’s Hardware Guide has learned, Intel and Microsoft did not join or back the DVD Forum, the consortium responsible for producing the HD DVD standard, as well as the current DVD standard. Rather, the companies have signed up as members of the HD DVD Promotion Group, which in a mission statement published on the Group’s Web site, clearly distinguishes itself from the DVD Forum. The statement outlines the Promotion Group’s purpose as “to exchange views and thoughts to help promote the HD DVD format based contents and products into the marketplace,” as well as to share responsibility for certain joint promotional activities.

The Group’s charter expands on this mission, stating that members are expected to promote the format, to expand the market for HD DVD, and to “enhance the development of content and hardware” in compliance with the format. Although members are expected to be engaged in the development and/or manufacture of HD DVD products or devices, the charter does not say when those companies would be so engaged — specifically, now or in the future, after a single format has been agreed upon. The separate HD DVD Promotion Group was established by Toshiba, NEC, Sanyo, and disc manufacturer Memory-Tech in September 2004.

So while it is possible that Microsoft and Intel may take an active role in actually developing or refining HD DVD, yesterday’s announcement – which was made through the HD DVD Promotion Group – should not be taken as a commitment by either company to do so. At the very least, both companies are expressing their support for one format over the other, for explicit reasons.

By contrast, the Blu-ray Disc Association – among whose members include Apple, Dell, and HP –describes itself as a consortium of companies whose common goal is “to develop the Blu-ray format.” A separate organization focusing solely on Blu-ray promotion does not yet exist.

Stay in touch with Tom’s Hardware Guide for further news regarding the latest developments in the high-def disc standards battle.