December 29, 2004 1:40 PM PST

JVC previews Blu-ray DVD combo

A new Blu-ray and DVD hybrid disc could bring some relief to consumers weary of the format war, but will it be enough for the increasingly fractured market?

JVC on Friday showed a prototype of a disc that combines standard DVD and new Blu-ray technology for a combined 33.5GB of capacity.

Blu-ray is a new read-only optical disc technology that increases the amount of storage on a disc with the aim of allowing content producers to distribute high-definition movies. But analysts warn that competing technologies like Blu-ray and High-Definition DVD (HD DVD) could do more short-term harm than good by prolonging confusion in the market.

"Everyone's vying to be the next DVD heir-apparent," said Jupiter Communications analyst Michael Gartenberg. "It's the 21st-century format wars and until all this stuff shakes out, consumers aren't going to buy anything. It's going to be a huge mess until consumers are able to sort out what the winning technology is."

A combined Blu-ray and standard DVD disc could help the situation. If content producers start distributing the combo discs, consumers might be more inclined to buy Blu-ray players.

"These are two radically different technologies, and it's not going to be feasible to build versatile players," Gartenberg said. "So this is something that could factor into consumer choices, but only if there's content in this format. That's what ultimately drives the sale."

JVC said it hoped the combo disc would also help spur more innovative content offerings and cut down on waste.

The combo "creates new possibilities for future software releases that take advantage of the large 33.5GB storage capacity by combining video content with commercials, music or games on a single disc," the company said in a release. "JVC also hopes that the new media format will contribute to resource and energy conservation by eliminating the need to create separate Blu-ray and DVD format discs."

Blu-ray has made some progress recently toward attracting converts among content producers. Disney this month said it would produce Blu-ray movies.

As for hardware, Thomson said this month it would enter the high-definition DVD market with a line of players and also that it would make HD DVD and Blu-ray discs.

JVC said it created the combo disc using a three-layer structure, two for DVD and one for Blu-ray. A reflective film lets a blue laser read the outer Blu-ray layer, and a red laser passes through the film to read the dual DVD layer within.

JVC didn't say when its prototype would be ready for release, but said it would propose the technology to the Blu-ray Disc Association, a trade group, for consideration as a standard. JVC also said a similar disc with even greater capacity--58.5GB--was in the works.

 

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