Hewlett-Packard to support both next-gen DVD formats

Hewlett-Packard (HP) has confirmed that it won't be taking sides in the format battle between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. Instead it's pledged support for both standards, leaving the forces of demand and supply to eventually eradicate the inferior offering.

"Today we are committed to supporting both standards," said Chin-Teik SEE, HP's Vice-President for Consumer Products and Mobile Business Group in the Asia-Pacific region.

This is a marked change from HP's initial stance, whereby it was a heavy supporter of the Blu-Ray standard. However, towards the end of last year the company had a falling out with the Blu-Ray camp over certain technical features, and in response it's now decided to work with HD-DVD as well.

The primary benefit touted by the next generation of DVD formats is increased capacity -- Blu-Ray can support 25GB or 50GB discs, while HD-DVD will offer 15GB, 30GB and 45GB capacities. Despite its slightly decreased capacity, HD-DVD offers other advantages such as backwards compatibility with today's DVDs and lower production costs.

According to Chin-Teik, the issues of cost and content availability will converge to determine the winner of the format wars.

"The key driver is really content availability," he said. Yet HP also recognises that costs -- both drive costs and inventory costs for its channel partners -- will play a major part as well.

Unlike manufacturers such as Dell, HP doesn't build its machines to order and thus, in order to support both standards its distributors in each country would have to stock Blu-Ray and HD-DVD versions of each PC. Thus, it's highly likely that said distributors will side with one standard only, depending on consumer demand in their specific region.

"It will be dependent on the region ... we will be putting the drive which is the most popular for that country first," said Chin-Teik, adding that "if there's the demand for a second standard in a country, we will support that too."

HP's decision on which standard to support has been followed closely, since it could significantly influence the outcome of the format tussle. This is because HP is the Australian market leader with a 16.5 percent share of the total PC market in 2005, according to according to IDC figures.



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