TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan”s Toshiba Corp. <6502.T> said on Thursday it may delay the year-end launch of its next-generation HD DVD players, potentially undermining its advantage as the first supplier to put such machines on the market.
The company added, however, any change in the launch schedule would be intended to maximise potential demand for the new products and that Toshiba remains committed to the HD DVD format as the next-generation DVD technology.
Toshiba and Sony Corp. <6758.T>, leading rival camps, have waged a three-year battle to have their different standards adopted for the new DVDs, which promise much greater capacity for high-definition movies.
Toshiba, along with NEC Corp. <6701.T> and Sanyo Electric Co. <6764.T>, has been promoting HD DVD, while Sony and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. <6752.T>, the maker of Panasonic brand products, have been developing a technology known as Blu-ray.
Toshiba has said it planned to launch HD DVD players in the fourth quarter of 2005 in Japan and the United States, while Sony plans to put a Blu-ray disc drive in its new PlayStation game console next year.
"We are now in talks with Hollywood studios and large-scale retailers to seek the most effective timing of the launch and best way to launch," a Toshiba spokeswoman said.
"We originally aimed for the year-end launch in the United States. But we have not really decided on that."
There is also a possibility that the products” launch in Japan may not come until after December, the spokeswoman said.
At stake in the format battle is pole position in the multibillion dollar markets for DVD players, PC drivers and optical discs.
The two sides tried to forge a common format earlier this year, without success, to avoid confusion and inconvenience of the kind that occurred as a result of the VHS-Beta battle over videocassette formats two decades ago.
Sony and some other companies in the Blu-ray camp have already offered next-generation DVD recorders based on their format.
But Sony said its existing Blu-ray recorders, launched before specifications for read-only discs were set, are not equipped to play pre-packaged movie discs.
Shares in Toshiba closed up 0.92 percent at 440 yen, outperforming the Tokyo stock market”s electric machinery index <.IELEC.T>, which rose 0.6 percent.