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Microsoft, Panasonic extend spec to DVDs

The companies' CD-only HighMAT spec will soon work with DVDs. It's designed to let consumers easily sort through photos, songs and other digital files contained on a disc.

Microsoft and Panasonic announced on Wednesday that their media access technology known as HighMAT will soon work with DVDs.

The companies said they would extend support in their High-performance Media Access Technology (HighMAT) specification to DVD-RAM and other major recordable DVD formats by the end of the year. Currently, the technology, which is included in Windows Media Player 9 and Windows Movie Maker 2 for XP, only supports CDs.

HighMAT, developed jointly by Microsoft and Panasonic, is designed to let consumers easily sort through photos, songs and other digital files contained on a disc, whether they're using a PC or a consumer-electronics gadget such as a CD or DVD player. At the moment, consumer-electronics devices use a variety of different methods to read digital material that's been created using a PC, meaning they can botch music playlists or fail to capture certain features included on a DVD.

The technology is designed to offer a common way for PCs to structure digital media on various physical formats and for consumer devices to read the data.

The companies said adding DVD support was a natural progression as more and more consumers are choosing digital music, cameras and video and are demanding interoperability between their PCs and electronics devices.

"DVDs are the storage media of the future, and as usage grows, adding HighMAT support will offer consumers better, more predictable navigation and performance on consumer-electronics devices," Amir Majidimehr, general manager of Microsoft's Windows Digital Media Division, said in a statement.

DVD media is capable of storing more than seven times the amount of data that CDs can store. According to research firm IDC, DVD burner shipments are expected to grow more than 140 percent, to 12 million, this year.

In related news, Microsoft and Panasonic also said DVD-burning software maker Roxio and Nomad player maker Creative Labs announced support for HighMAT, bringing the total number of companies planning to incorporate the technology into their products to 14.

Also on Wednesday, Panasonic unveiled seven new HighMAT-compatible devices that are available for sale, the first such machines to hit the market.