Microsoft spotlights HD DVD at tech show

Microsoft has been banging the HD DVD drum at its Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2006 in Seattle. With the likes of Sony, Samsung, Philips and Apple lined up behind Blu-ray as the next-generation of optical disc technology to replace DVDs, Microsoft – along with NEC and Intel is backing the Toshiba-driven rival format.

At the conference, Microsoft trumpeted the various PC manufacturers, independent hardware vendors (IHVs) and independent software vendors (ISVs) that are lining up under the HD DVD banner with their products. As well as software players from the likes of CyberLink and InterVideo Inc, it highlighted Vista-enabled professional authoring and encoding systems from Sonic Solutions and Roxio.

Plans are in place, it was declared, to ramp up support for HD DVD playback in PCs and on PC hardware and software in 2006 and early 2007, with Toshiba leading the way. It was also reiterated that Windows Vista will ship with all the drivers and file system components to support HD DVD playback.

Microsoft also announced a new initiative intended to help ISVs implement VC-1 (a video codec based on Windows Media Video) and iHD (Internet high-definition full-screen video) to optimise HD DVD playback systems. The program will provide iHD test vectors and sample code, with the intention of improving third-party iHD implementations for Windows Vista.

‘Eight months ago, Microsoft announced support for HD DVD with Intel, with the shared belief that the format met important criteria and would deliver unique advantages to the PC ecosystem and to consumers,’ said Amir Majidimehr, corporate VP of the Windows Digital Media Division at Microsoft. ‘Today, we’re seeing those benefits come together: affordable hardware and excellent replication yields, along with amazing levels of interactivity, more capacity and incredible quality. At WinHEC we’re committing to help our hardware and software partners achieve a great playback experience for consumers.’

Microsoft has previously declared its confidence in its decision to back HD DVD over Blu-ray in the battle for supremacy of the high definition optical disc market, back in April, likening Blu-ray to another technology from Sony: Betamax. ‘A bit like VHS – we think that HD DVD is the format that consumers, film studios and publishers will embrace,’ boldly declared Chris Lewis, Microsoft’s regional VP for EMEA and the man responsible for the company’s Xbox 360 gaming console business in Europe.

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