CES - Toshiba expects to ship 1.8M HD DVD players in 2007, unveils 51GB HD DVD

Toshiba said it will sell 1.8 million HD DVD players this year, increased disc capacity to 51G bytes, and said several companies will launch players this year.

New movie releases, more market entrants, improved technology and 1.8 million HD DVD players from Toshiba are the weapons companies plan to use in the format battle against rival Blu-ray Disc this year, according to company executives.

Members of a trade group promoting the high definition video format HD DVD said that at least 360 new movies will be released on HD DVD this year, including the "Harry Potter" movies, the "Matrix" series, the "Sopranos" television series and classics such as "Bladerunner" and digitally remastered episodes from the original "Star Trek" television series.

By the end of 2007, there will be 600 movies available for users with an HD DVD player or drive, said Craig Kornblau, president of Universal Studios Home Entertainment, at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Several new companies will also release their first HD DVD players or drives this year, executives said, including Alco Holdings Ltd. of China, Lite-On IT Corp. of Taiwan and Japan's Alpine Electronics Inc., with an HD DVD player for cars

But many of the biggest announcements of the day came from Toshiba Corp., the developer of the HD DVD format. The Japanese electronics giant will release the next generation of its HD DVD players this year, including the HD A20 HD DVD player announced on Sunday.

The vendor will also add a huge number of total players shipped in North America alone, 1.8 million, said Yoshihide Fujii, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Toshiba's digital media network company.

"This is a very conservative figure," he said.

In addition, the HD DVD trade group expects revenue for HD DVD players, drives and discs in North America this year to top US$600 million, said Kornblau.

Sales of HD DVD players during the recent winter holidays were stellar, with Microsoft selling out of the HD DVD drives it built for its Xbox 360 game consoles.

"Demand well outpaced the supply we could produce last year," said Amir Majidimehr, corporate vice president of the Consumer Media Technology Group at Microsoft.

Toshiba also announced new improvements to HD DVD technology that will greatly increase its storage capacity. The company said it developed a triple-layer HD DVD-ROM (read only memory) disc that can hold 51G bytes of data on a single-sided disc, a huge advance over current discs. Toshiba was able to increase the capacity by enabling each of three layers on a disc to store 17G bytes of data. The vendor aims to gain approval for the new disc by the DVD Forum this year.

Overall, the companies in the HD DVD trade group said last year offered a tremendous boost to the popularity of HD DVD, with sales of up to 28 movies per player over the course of the year.

"It is similar to when DVDs were first being adopted," said Kornblau, saying that he expects 2007 to be a stellar year for HD DVD.

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