Kutaragi: Blu-ray-HD-DVD deal dead

Sony Computer Entertainment president says there's little chance of a unified disc format becoming a reality; Toshiba's president concurs.

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TOKYO--Just over two months ago, a truce was declared in the three-year war between the Blu-ray and HD-DVD factions as Sony and Toshiba began negotiations on a unified next-generation disc standard. However, talks fell apart after Toshiba announced last month that it has no plans to accept Blu-ray's disc structure as the base for a unified standard.

Talking to the press on June 8, Sony Computer Entertainment president Ken Kutaragi offered his own view on the issue of a unified next-generation disc standard for the first time. He commented that he made the decision to adopt the Blu-ray disc format for the PlayStation 3 because he thinks the chances of coming up with a unified disc standard in the future are slim. "There's very little chance that the negotiations will go through," stated Kutaragi, who said "product planning" for the PS3's launch forced a decision on Sony.

Sony and Toshiba each announced its own unique next-generation disc format in 2002, and each has been vying to have its standard adopted ever since. The two sides began negotiations for a unified disc standard in February, fearing a repeat of the VHS-versus-Betamax wars of the early '80s. (Sony was the owner of the Betamax format.) The negotiations were broken on May 16 by Toshiba, which stated that its HD-DVD disc structure would be better suited than Sony’s Blu-ray for use in a unified standard, since it would be more convenient to both consumers and Hollywood film studios in terms of cost.

Analysts see the chances of Toshiba and Sony coming to an agreement as virtually impossible, since both companies see their format as superior. Sony's main focus has been capacity, while Toshiba's has been cost of production.

In a recent interview with Mainichi Interactive, Sony Blu-ray management director Kiyoshi Nishitani was not optimistic. "There's too much difference between our beliefs," he said. "The Blu-ray can record 50GB, but the HD-DVD can only record 30GB. Without 50GB of capacity, we can't answer the demands of long hours of high-definition video recording and high-quality extras. The HD-DVD camp is saying that we don't need that much capacity, but it will be required in the future."

Yoshihide Fujii, managing director at Toshiba, expressed similar doubts about a unified format. "Toshiba has no plans to agree with Sony," he said. "Most movie studios have said that the HD-DVD's 30GB capacity is enough. Normal households use HDs for long hours of recordings, and they record whatever they want to save long-term onto DVDs. So there's really no need for a recording media with an extreme capacity. The consumers are most concerned about inexpensive media. Therefore, the HD is better than the Blu-ray, since it can be manufactured by current DVD production machines and costs less to create."

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