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Toshiba’s New BD Attack Vector: Modify DVD for HD Content

by June 04, 2008
Why is this man smiling?  He thinks he has a shinny new stick to beat Sony with.

Why is this man smiling? He thinks he has a shinny new stick to beat Sony with.

When Toshiba ceded the format war back in February, one thing they made clear was that they did not plan to make Blu-ray players and that they would pursue other technologies such as NAND flash memory and next generation CPUs to push HD adoption, and that they were determined to continue developing the DVD format.  Many figured that the company either would focus on digital distribution of HD media or ultimately would join the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) to avoid falling behind in the presumed future of consumer electronics.

Little did anyone suspect such direct foreshadowing as Toshiba has now patented technology to get more capacity out of the existing DVD technology while retaining backwards compatibility.

BetaNews: Toshiba looking to get high-def out of standard DVDs

PC Authority: Toshiba unveils another Blu-ray 'killer', millions ask why

Toshiba is again looking to move the HDTV bandwagon in its own direction and is pushing forward on several fronts to make good on its promise of leveraging its HD-DVD investment.

Based on details that are sketchy at present about exactly what Toshiba is up to with good old DVD, it seems that there is a two pronged approach, one based on better scaling techniques (presumably based around the Cell Processor video technology they were working on at CES this year) and the second based on disc storage limits.

According to Atsutoshi Nishida, President, and CEO of Toshiba Corporation, in an interview with the Japanese newspaper Daily Yomiuri, Toshiba plans to release DVD players based on Large Scale Integration (LSI) process technology later this year that is claimed to allow picture quality at nearly the level of HD-DVD on standard DVD.  Then there is Toshiba’s newly patented DVD technology that looks to add two or more additional data layers per side and utilize parallel read heads to eliminate layer crosstalk that has limited previous attempts to squeeze higher storage density out of red laser DVD.  One interesting possibility for such a change is the possibility of storing SD video on discs with tracking readable by any existing DVD player and using the additional layers to store supplemental information required to generate HD resolution video on a suitably equipped player.

What is not entirely clear is if the two developments are intended to be independent or combined.  LSI appears to be an attempt to improve DVD up scaling and processing while the new patent seems to address space limitations that affect the practicality of putting HD content on DVDs that lead to new formats such as HD-DVD and BD in the first place.  Combined they might address the space limitations of DVD completely.

Nishida also mentioned the pending release of 256 GB flash memory aimed at video storage next year.  When also considering that Toshiba bought out Sony’s stake in Cell Processor manufacturing and has demonstrated its usefulness in video processing, we can start to see the Toshiba strategy taking shape.

Success depends on several factors.  One is price, and if Toshiba can slip in these new players at cost comparable to an upscaling DVD player, they can take advantage of BD player price stagnation.  Another factor is manufacturing and how involved and expensive is the retooling.  Finally, we have content, which is king, and is what ultimately brought about the demise of HD-DVD.  If manufacturing the new discs turns out to not be such a big deal, perhaps forcing a switch to the revised DVD though the DVD Forum solves both these problems.

Throughout the format war, many analysts said that DVD was the real competitor for both formats and with stagnant BD sales growth attributed to high BD player cost and general consumer satisfaction with upscaled DVD this belief has been bourn out.  The new strategy may be a way to fly HD under the radar into family rooms through existing DVD players without any format war drama.

Will this latest move turn out to be folly for Toshiba, only time will tell.

About the author:
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Professionally, David engineers building structures. He is also a musician and audio enthusiast. David gives his perspective about loudspeakers and complex audio topics from his mechanical engineering and HAA Certified Level I training.

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PENG posts on June 15, 2008 12:15
I just picked up Beowulf at FS (Ontario) for C$14.99. It is good that Toshiba lost so BR can move on faster. It is also great to be able to pick up HD DVD movies at similar prices to regular DVDs and play them on my C$69 player so I actually don't mind Toshiba doing their thing.
skads_187 posts on June 14, 2008 21:43
bobnegi, post: 423075
How did I get screwed?

I dont think you got screwed, but if someone purchased say 25-50 hd-dvd movies at regular price back then, that person's screwed on the money they wasted. But it probably wont bother everyone. some ppl dont mind spending that kind of money, I on the other hand would've have been slightly pissed.

but in the end I went Blu, hope its here to stay, but i wont get screwed, cause i would then use my player for gaming
bobnegi posts on June 13, 2008 14:32
…after Toshiba screwed one million consumers by pulling the plug on HD-DVD, the public won't trust Toshiba…

I recently(after the demise announcement) bought 2 HD DVD players, I can play HD movies, and my regular movies (upscaled to 1080i) look slightly better (comparable to my Denon DVD-2910 at 480p,which retailed for $1,150 up here in Canada).

the two HD players cost me $250, and I received several free movies. How did I get screwed?
mr-ben posts on June 13, 2008 13:39
BMXTRIX, post: 421211
Toshiba has shown pre-rendered comparisons of SRT technology in comparison to standard DVD. These have not been real time demonstrations of SRT using an actual DVD, but have been renderings, similar to how video game releases are often put together.

These are the articles I was thinking of - I was under the impression that this was moving video. Either way, it's still “promise-ware”
dobyblue posts on June 13, 2008 12:58
wesiler, post: 422215
Had the market been flooded with a single DVD/HD-DVD combo disk in lieu of two standards that confuse the consumer, things would have turned out different.

No studio in the midst of a format war would do that.
Paramount agreed on ONE title, the Star Trek Season 1 issue, because Toshiba footed the bill for everything (according to insiders)

They would not be able to do that for any serious number of titles, given that we also know that yields on the combo discs were far worse than BD50's.
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