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Saturday, 06 January 2007 16:45

1st-gen HD DVD burner from Toshiba arrives - slowly

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Toshiba’s first HD DVD burner, the SD-H903A, is for desktops, servers and home entertainment PCs has arrived in the same week that LG has launched a Blu-ray burner and HD DVD reader for the same market segment. Are we moving from high-def hell to high-def heaven?

Well, we are, but very slowly on the optical drive front. The world of downloading directly to a hard drive, which are ultraportable these days to carry around, whether in an iPod or one of the many 2.5-inch portable hard drive solutions, has far to go before its as ubiquitous as free-to-air television today, but even so, is already well advanced well enormous usage both illegally – and increasingly legally too.

In the optical world, LG has their new Blu-ray/HD DVD combo player to launch at CES, Warner Bros have their dual-format disc to launch too. LG are also launching a US $1200 Blu-ray burner (that works with both 25Gb and 50Gb discs) that can also play HD DVD discs, while there have already been Blu-ray burners from Sony, Pioneer and others on the market for several months.

Now that Toshiba has launched their HD DVD burner for computers, how long can it be before we have a multi-format burner that burns everything, at faster and faster speeds?

It’s fascinating to see Toshiba’s HD DVD burner starts us once again at a slow, slow 1x speed, but who wants to take bets on how quickly a 2x speed drive comes out, and then faster still... at two thirds the price, and then cheaper still?

No doubt there will be a 2x HD DVD burner and more, as Toshiba are likely to take a while to give in to shipping a Blu-ray and HD DVD capable burner, just as Sony will be taking their time to do the same. But, just as Philips had to give in and eventually ship a DVD recorder that worked with DVD- discs as well as the Philips-led DVD+R standard, both Sony and Toshiba will have to give in, too.

In the meantime companies like LG and others are powerful enough to step into the breach and force the issue. The only thing that can really keep the format madness going is if the royalties that LG must pay for supporting both formats simply becomes too prohibitive to pay.

But that would surely be shooting optical high-definition video formats in the foot, and giving the Chinese EVD format a chance to take over through inexpensive playback and recording devices, as the EVD manufacturers won’t have to pay big royalties to the Blu-ray and HD DVD camps (Sony and Toshiba).

On that issue of price, one hasn’t been released yet, but with that we can be reassured that it will be expensive, probably somewhere around LG’s pricing of US $1200 for their Blu-ray burner.

So while LG and Warner Bros will try, at CES, to proclaim that high-def heaven has arrived, Dante taught us that in hell, there are seven layers to contend with. So far, we’ve moved up to level 6. The pearly gates are still way off in the distance just yet, and there’s gonna be a helluva fight before we get there!


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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