According to Japanese reports, electronics giants Sony and Toshiba are in early talks about unifying their rival Blu-ray and HD-DVD next-generation optical disc formats in some kind of single hybrid technology.
This has particular relevance to the next-generation console market since Sony has confirmed the PlayStation 3 is using a Blu-ray disc. Rumors have also abounded that Toshiba has been attempting to court Microsoft into using HD-DVD technology in the next generation Xbox, though latest reports seem to confirm that the Xbox 360 will use a conventional DVD drive.
In public, both Sony and Toshiba have been eager to play down any talk of a unified format, with Sony spokesman Taro Takamine denying anything has been decided in discussions with Japanese newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun. Takamine would only say that that any deal would result in technological cooperation in future developments for Blu-ray.
Toshiba spokesman Keisuke Omori has also denied that any deal is in the works, although he did admit it was recognized within the company that a single format was best for customers.
Sony, together with Panasonic and 10 other electronics manufacturers, has championed only the Blu-ray technology, while Toshiba and its consortium have overseen the creation of the HD-DVD format. Both technologies are intended to replace CDs and DVDs and the use of the Blu-ray format in the next generation PlayStation is one of the few details so far revealed about the console.
Both camps now seem eager to avoid a repeat of the VHS vs. Betamax format war of the ’80s. Of the two formats, Blu-ray is arguably regarded as the superior technology, with a capacity of 50GB compared to 30GB for HD-DVD. HD-DVD discs, though, are cheaper to manufacture since their production method is similar to normal DVDs.
The kingmakers in any deal may prove to be Hollywood executives, who are reportedly impatient at delays in bringing a new format to market. Whether negotiations in creating a hybrid format could delay any of the next generation consoles is unclear, but this question will certainly need to be resolved before the PlayStation 3 launch, currently estimated to be some time in 2006 by analysts.