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HP Blesses Rival HD-DVD Formats

HP has agreed to support the HD-DVD high-definition DVD format in addition to the Blu-ray Disc format, becoming the latest influential company to back both competing standards for high-quality digital television.

The Palo Alto, Calif., systems vendor also joined the HD-DVD Promotions Group.

Originally only a backer of Blu-ray, HP last month promised to add support for HD-DVD if Blu-ray didn't adopt Mandatory Managed Copy and iHD, which are already included in the HD-DVD format.

Blu-ray adopted Mandatory Managed Copy, which permits consumers to make legal copies of video content. But it did not accept iHD, which allows content providers to offer new interactivity to provide consumers with better content, navigation and functionality for HD films.

Microsoft developed iHD and will support it in its forthcoming Windows Vista operating system.

HP believes both Mandatory Managed Copy and iHD are important to fostering the digitally connected home, which is why it chose to support HD-DVD. Moreover, HP is in bed with Microsoft on most digital media strategies, making iHD an obvious support decision for HP.

HP believes this integration will reduce development costs and provide a more cost-effective solution for consumers. HP also blessed HD-DVD for being cheaper and easier to manufacture.

HP is now essentially a neutral supporter of both technologies.

"We're encouraged that the Blu-ray Disc Association is adopting Mandatory Managed Copy. Because HP wants to deliver the most user-friendly and cost-effective solution to our customers, we have decided to support both formats," said Maureen Weber, general manager, personal storage business, HP.

"By joining the HD-DVD Promotions Group and continuing work with the Blu-ray Disc Association, HP will be in a better position to assess true development costs and, ultimately, provide the best and most affordable solution for consumers."

Neutral or not, HP's stance mirrors that of several movie studios, most of which chose one standard but ultimately decided to support both.

No one wants to invest in just one technology in case the other fails, which is how several companies lost money in the Sony-Betamax video cassette protocol war in the 1980s.

Consumer electronics retailers will be pressured to aggressively market DVD players equipped with either technology, creating a multi-billion-dollar market space.

Latest polls give Blu-ray the edge.

DVD players equipped with Blu-ray or HD-DVD aren't expected until 2006, but Forrester Research has already tabbed Blu-ray the winner, citing its greater capacity, Java support and ability to be used in games and computers.

Blu-ray and HD-DVD use blue lasers, which have a shorter wavelength than the red lasers used in current DVD players. This allows discs to store data at the higher densities needed for high-definition TV.