Hybrid Discs, Machines May Soon End DVD Format War

The high-definition DVD format war, which has slowed consumer acceptance of the new players, may soon be over.

Warner Bros. movie studio said Wednesday it will use next week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to introduce a disc, called Total HD, that is capable of being read by both HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc machines.

At the same show, South Korea's LG Electronics will debut a player that handles both HD DVD and Blu-ray Discs, the company said Wednesday.

• Click here for FOXNews.com's Personal Technology Center.

"The Total High-Definition Disc allows consumers to fully embrace high-definition viewing," Ron Sanders, president of Warner Home Video, said in a statement Thursday. "Warner Bros. was a force in creating the current market dominance of the standard DVD, and we hope that THD will make it easier for the average consumer to enjoy this next level of technology."

Warner Bros. was vague about the technical specifications of Total HD, such as how much information each disc could hold. The New York Times hinted in a Jan. 4 article that the discs would essentially hold two copies of the same information, one for each high-definition format.

"The next best thing is to recognize that there will be two formats and to make that not a negative for the consumer," Barry M. Meyer, chairman and chief executive of Warner Bros., told the Times. "We felt that the most significant constituency for us to satisfy was the consumer first, and the retailer second. The retailer wants to sell hardware and doesn't want to be forced into stocking two formats for everything. This is ideal for them."

• Click here to read the New York Times story.

LG said it expected its dual-format player to "end the confusion and inconvenience of competing high-definition disc formats."

Blu-ray Discs generally hold 25 gigabytes of data on a "single-layer" disc, 50 on a "double-layer" one; HD DVD discs hold 15 and 30 gigabytes respectively.

Standard DVDs hold 4.7 or 9.4 gigabytes.

The two high-definition DVD formats have been battling for market share since being introduced in North America last year.

Both had been expected to get a boost during the holiday shopping season as studios released more films in the high-definition formats, but the high prices of the players — $500 and up for an HD DVD machine, about $1,000 for a Blu-ray counterpart — caused hesitation on the part of consumers.

Sony (SNE), primary backer of Blu-ray, had hoped widespread sales of its PlayStation 3 video-game console would spur adoption of the format.

But the company's insistence that the console include a Blu-ray player led to disaster as a shortage of blue lasers led to manufacturing shortfalls.

That in turn forced the PlayStation 3's Japanese and North American launches to be delayed for six months and drastically cut the number of units available to consumers when the machines finally did hit stores in November — completely undermining Sony's strategy to "flood the zone" with moderately priced Blu-ray disc players.

HD DVD, developed by Toshiba, was designed to be physically similar to standard DVDs in order to ease conversion for manufacturers.

In 2003, it was designated as the "official" successor to the DVD format, and Microsoft (MSFT) now sells a $200 HD DVD player add-on to its Xbox 360 game console.

With so much investment in each format, neither side has been willing to compromise, forcing computer makers, consumer-electronics manufacturers and Hollywood studios to choose sides — and shoppers, wary of getting stuck with a losing standard like Betamax, to wait it out until one side wins.

Apple (AAPL), Dell (DELL), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Matsushita's (MC) Panasonic, Samsung and TDK (TDK) have lined up with Blu-ray, as has Sony's longtime ally Philips (PHG). HD DVD can count on the support of Intel (INTC), Microsoft and Sanyo, among others.

Universal Studios, a division of General Electric Co. (GE), is releasing films exclusively in HD DVD, while 20th Century Fox, which is owned by News Corp. (NWS), and The Walt Disney Co. (DIS) have remained staunch defenders of Blu-ray.

Warner Bros. first backed HD DVD exclusively, but then released films and TV shows in both formats, as has Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc. (VIA)

Complicating the situation are moderately priced "upconverting" standard DVD players, which use mathematical algorithms to make regular discs look good, if not quite spectacular, on the millions of high-definition televisions American consumers snapped up in 2006.

Blu-ray Discs and HD DVDs are both read by blue lasers, rather than the red lasers found in standard DVD and CD players.

The shorter wavelength allows for smaller pits, the microscopic etchings on an optical disc that are translated by the players' microprocessor into binary data, thus allowing for greater density of information.

Despite their similarities, the two formats are basically incompatible. The Blu-ray Disc's pits are very close to the surface of the disc, necessitating a tightly focused laser, while the HD DVD's pits are, as with regular DVDs, behind a thick layer of clear plastic.

Warner Bros. has also patented a disc that can contain three versions of a film — one in each of the rival high-definition formats and a third that can be viewed on standard DVD players.

FOXNews.com's Paul Wagenseil and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

FOXNews.com is owned and operated by News Corporation, which also owns and operates the Twentieth-Century Fox film and television production studio.