Competing Video Formats Battle At CES

Toshiba and Pioneer introduced disk players in competing high-definition formats at the Consumer Electronics Show, while Broadcom took a step toward peace with a decoder chip that works in both formats.
The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas became a battleground in the war over competing standards for high-definition video disks as competing manufacturers unveiled players in the HD-DVD and Blu-ray formats. Meanwhile chipmaker Broadcomm played peacemaker, announcing a new HD decoder chip that is compliant with both formats.

Toshiba introduced the HD-XA1 and HD-A1, its first HD-DVD players available in the United States, with retail deliveries scheduled for March -- about the same time major commercial studios are expected to begin releasing HD-DVD titles. The company also showed off a new high-end Qosmio laptop with an HD-DVD drive. Competitor Pioneer unwrapped its BDP-HD1, which it claims is one of the first Blu-ray players in the United States. The BDP-HDI delivers 1920-by-1080-pixel video output. It will retail for $1,800.

The Broadcom BCM7411D HD A/V decoder chip is a part that will be built into HD players. It supports all three HD compression standards -- AVC H.264 (MPEG-4 Part 10/Advanced Video Coding, used by both HD and Blu-ray), VC-1 (the SMPTE standard based on Microsoft Windows Media Video 9), and MPEG-2 (used for standard DVDs and capable of resolutions up to 1920x1080).

While the decoder chip will enable a new generation of players that can decode compressed HD video stored on either Blu-ray or HD formatted disks, there are other incompatibilities that manufacturers must overcome -- notably the differing specifications for the laser "read head" of the player -- before a single drive can play multiple formats.

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