Toshiba planning Blu-ray Disc players, notebooks

The company, which once pitched HD DVD against the format, expects its first Blu-ray products on the market this year

After betting the wrong horse, Toshiba is keen to recooup its losses in the Blu-ray market.

After betting the wrong horse, Toshiba is keen to recooup its losses in the Blu-ray market.

Toshiba is planning to launch players and laptops with support for Blu-ray Disc later this year, it said Monday. The company was the primary backer of the HD DVD optical-disc format that had been battling Blu-ray Disc until last year.

In a brief statement Toshiba said it had applied for membership for the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA), the standards setting and licensing body behind the format and would launch products before the end of 2009.

"In light of recent growth in digital devices supporting the Blu-ray format, combined with market demand from consumers and retailers alike, Toshiba has decided to join the BDA," it said.

The move ends an almost seven-year journey for Toshiba that began in August 2002 when it and NEC proposed a blue-laser format to the DVD Forum as a replacement for DVD for high-definition movies. Sony and a group of other companies had announced their intentions to unite with Blu-ray Disc earlier in the year and the stage was set for a battle between the two.

Over several years Sony, Toshiba and a handful of other heavy hitters in the consumer electronics industry pitched products against each other. An increasingly heated debate on the formats left consumers confused, and most people stayed away from either until a winner was decided.

That came in February 2008 when Toshiba, seeing its final few supporters jump ship to Blu-ray Disc, chose to throw in the towel on HD DVD.

Although now over, the effects of the battle continue to be felt today. A recent poll by Harris Interactive found many U.S. consumers are not excited about a high-definition video disc despite the popularity of high-definition TV.

Among consumers who don't own a Blu-ray Disc player, only 7 percent said they are likely to purchase one this year while the rest are not likely to take the plunge, the online poll found. It surveyed 2,041 U.S. adults between April 13 and 21 this year.

On the software side Harris found only a quarter of consumers were planning to switch exclusively to Blu-ray Disc with the remainder still picking up DVDs. In the year since the format battle was decided, U.S. sales of Blu-ray Discs have only managed to double, according to figures from industry association The Digital Entertainment Group.

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Martyn Williams

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