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Toshiba, Memory-Tech unveil new disc

Companies develop dual-layer disc that can be played on both standard and high-definition players.

In an effort to ease the transition to higher-capacity disc technology, Toshiba and Memory-Tech have developed a dual-layer disc that supports DVD and HD DVD formats.

A smooth shift from the old technology should make it as convenient as possible for consumers and device manufacturers to upgrade from DVDs to the next-generation DVD format without having to toss their old discs.

The companies announced the joint development and detailed the new disc's capabilities Tuesday in Tokyo. The disc will be single-sided, with the upper layer storing up to 4.7GB of data in the DVD format and the lower layer holding 15GB of HD DVD data.

Memory-Tech will produce the read-only discs. Manufacturing costs will be comparable to those of single-sided, dual-layer DVDs or HD DVDs. The discs are expected to reach stores in late 2005, as are HD DVD players.

The new disc is part of an effort to ease the conversion from the popular DVD format to higher capacity, blue-laser specifications. With increased disc capacities, high-definition content--as well as new features such as interactive content and sound tracks--can be added to discs.

A fluid transition is also key to the continued success of movies on DVDs, a multibillion-dollar business for studios.

The new technology "will help the industry to make a smooth transition from the current DVD business to the next-generation DVD business without interfering with current DVD business growth," Memory-Tech CEO Shiroharu Kawasaki said in a statement.

Two blue-laser technologies, HD DVD and Blu-ray, are being promoted as DVD successors. Toshiba and NEC are leading the HD DVD efforts, with Sony and PC makers such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard stumping for Blu-ray.

Last week, the HD DVD camp got a significant boost when several major studios, including Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures, said movies would come out on HD DVDs starting late next year.