Failure of two technology camps, called Blu-ray and HD DVD, to reach a unified technological front has set the stage this year for a formats war like the costly VHS/Betamax battle of 25 years ago.
Both Blu-ray, led by Sony, and HD DVD, championed by Toshiba, are expected this spring to launch new high-definition DVD players, offering greater capacity and interactive features, hoping to breathe new life into the sagging home video market.
News Corp.'s Twentieth Century Fox said it will release 20 Blu-ray films in a first wave this year that will include hits like "Fantastic Four" and "Ice Age." Sony Pictures Home Entertainment said it will release 20 titles on Blu-ray beginning this spring, including "The Fifth Element," and "Hitch."
Both studios are making the announcements at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the largest U.S. electronics show of the year.
Many in the computer industry, including software giant Microsoft and chipmaker Intel, have.
Hewlett-Packard asked for features to allow more interactivity, which HD DVD agreed to and Blu-ray did not--at least for now. Now Blu-ray supporters, who wanted to avoid delays, say they may have the edge on timing.
"Blu-ray has not been markedly changed over the last six months. That means our format's been stable and is ready for production. From discussions we've had with the authoring community, Blu-ray might already be ahead, said Ben Feingold, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
HD DVD rejects that out of hand.
"The suggestion that all of these powerful and capable tools, especially authoring tools, and the support of the world's leading tech company, has been a negative for HD DVD, is simply absurd," said Mark Knox, a spokesman for HD DVD.
"The participation of Microsoft and Intel has been welcome and essential to HD DVD as we rapidly approach our launch," he said.
Warner Bros. said it will announce products tied to both formats at the Consumer Electronics Show this week. Some electronics makers have said they plan announcements related to the formats at the show.
Sony's Blu-ray appears to have amassed more allies, including Apple Computer, Panasonic and the greater share of movie studios, although some industry watchers believe HD-DVD's enlistment of Microsoft, has turned the whole dispute into a battle with personal computers at the center.
HP, which has long sat on the board of the Blu-ray Disc Association, only recentlyafter Blu-ray failed to comply with certain technology requests it proposed to make Blu-ray more appealing to computer users.