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Blank Blu-ray discs start shipping

Next-generation optical discs are headed to retailers, but the players aren't here yet.

Japan's TDK has started shipping blank Blu-ray discs to retailers, and they cost about as much as a first run movie on DVD.

A 25GB recordable disc costs $19.95, according to the Blu-ray Disc Association, the trade group behind the next-generation format. Recordable-rewritable versions of the 25GB disc cost $24.95.

Later this year, TDK will come out with a Blu-ray disc that records on both sides and holds 50GB. The recordable version will sell for $47.99, while the recordable-rewritable version will go for $59.95. TDK began to supply manufacturers with samples in December.

Prices, though, will decline as more manufacturers and manufacturing facilities for the new format come out. Blu-ray players won't hit shelves until later this year.

Two different camps are battling it out to establish the next standard for optical discs. The Blu-ray group--which includes Sony, Philips, Dell and several film studios--says its technology will provide more storage than competing HD DVD.

Toshiba, Microsoft, Intel and the other HD backers, however, say their format will be a lot cheaper.

Many film studios have decided to support both formats. PC and consumer electronics companies, however, are typically being forced to choose one format or another. A few, such as Hewlett-Packard and LG, say they'll support both.

For consumers, the format war will be a headache as they will have to remember to buy PCs that are compatible with their consumer electronics equipment that is compatible with the movies they buy.

Blu-ray discs are composed of copper and silicon and are different from the material used in CDs and DVDs, according to TDK.