Apple sides with Blu-ray Disc in format war

Apple Computer has sided with the Blu-ray Disc Association, as it enters the debate over which specification will become the next-generation DVD format.

The association, which includes the likes of Sony, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, on Thursday announced Apple as its latest member following a bimonthly meeting in South Korea hosted by electronics maker Samsung. Apple will lend its expertise in high-definition and DVD authoring to the development of the Blu-ray Disc specification, which is backward-compatible with DVDs and allows for the storage of up to 50GB of data. Current DVDs can hold up to about 8.5GB of information.

Blu-ray Disc's ability to store such large amounts of data is one of its key advantages over the HD DVD specification. HD DVDs hold up to 30GB of data and are backward-compatible with current DVDs. Proponents of HD DVD say players and discs will be cheaper to make than products based on the Blu-ray Disc specification. The two incompatible formats are the main technologies being considered by electronics and PC makers, as well as entertainment studios, to succeed the highly popular and profitable DVD.

DVDs spawned a billion dollar industry, and executives are wary of tampering with a hit. However, all signs are pointing to the growing high-definition video market--and high-definition content requires more storage capacity than DVDs can sufficiently support.

"Consumers are already creating stunning HD content," Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs said in a statement, adding that consumers are "anxiously awaiting" a way to burn content to high-definition DVDs.

Apple also will participate in the promotion and marketing of the Blu-ray Disc format, according to Josh Peterson, director of optical storage at HP.

"We're hoping to tap their marketing and creative genius when it comes to that area," Peterson said.

Peterson added that Blu-ray Disc products are still scheduled to come out as early as the end of 2005 and as late as the beginning of next year. The "gating factor" is copy protection, and on that front, a number of proposals are being mulled, including the use of Advanced Access Content System, or AACS, one protection technology that HD DVD is also considering.

The Blu-ray Disc Association is finalising the list of interactive features it plans to support in the first Blu-ray Disc products.

Manufacturers are expected to come out with devices that read and write to DVD, Blu-ray Disc and CD.

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