HP to back HD-DVD

Hewlett Packard has announced that it will be supporting Toshiba’s HD-DVD format as well as that of Sony’s Blu-Ray. The company will also be joining the HD-DVD Promotions Group.

While the move will be a serious blow to the Sony format, it is by no means unexpected. Following a joint Microsoft and Intel announcement that they back HD-DVD, HP has been increasingly isolated in the Blu-ray group.

At issue were two technologies which are part of the HD-DVD specification but not for Blu-ray. Mandatory Managed Copy allows consumers to make legal copies of video content and iHD, which allows content providers to offer greater interactivity on next-generation DVDs.

In October,HP asked the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) to include mandatory Managed Copy and iHD as part of its format specification. The Association, which is dominated by the movie studios worried about the risk of piracy has approved the inclusion of Mandatory Managed Copy but not iHD. Meanwhile Microsoft says plans to integrate iHD into its new Windows Vista operating system due out next year.

At the moment however, HP is hedging its bets. Maureen Weber, HP’s General Manager, Personal Storage Business, said, ‘By joining the HD-DVD Promotions Group and continuing work with the Blu-ray Disc Association, HP will be in a better position to assess true development costs and, ultimately, provide the best and most affordable solution for consumers.’.

Nevertheless, while HP remains part of the BDA and will continue to press for the adoption of iHD for launch, if the rest of the Association refuses to budge it is unlikely to show much further enthusiasm for Blu-ray. A full defection to the HD-DVD camp would signal a schism between the movie studios on the one side and the PC industry on the other with the consumer electronics industry divided between the two.

Toshiba is understandably pleased at the news. Calling the HP announcement ‘significant and welcome’, it said that the move ‘will add to the increasing momentum in the IT industry toward HD DVD’.

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