Sony Corp. is denying reports that it is ready to end the digital videodisc (DVD) format wars and join the rival homevideo technology proposed by an alliance of seven electronics firms and Hollywood studios led by Toshiba and Time Warner Inc.
In a strongly worded statement issued from Tokyo Feb. 22, Sony managing director Nobuyuki Idei said, “Sony Corp. reaffirms its commitment to the single-sided, double-layer, 12-cm. high-density multimedia specifications proposed jointly on Dec. 16,1994, by Philips Electronics and Sony.”
Statements by Philips chief Jan Timmer at a press briefing in the Netherlands also indicated a closing of the ranks.
The DVD is a 5-inch compact optical disc capable of holding full-length movies with multichannel sound and is touted as the successor to the videocassette. The technical differences between the two rival DVD formats are much in debate, but industry experts agree that if both formats come to market as expected next year, consumer confusion could slow acceptance of the new medium.
Replying to Sony’s statement, Warren Lieberfarb, president of Time Warner Home Video, said, “We are comfortable with our technology. Our coalition partners are committed and confident with our plans to go forward with a first-half ’96 launch.”
Sony’s statement departed from previous statements in that it described the Sony/Philips disc as holding 7.4 gigabytes of data, or four and a half hours of video. The earlier Dec. 16 announcement of Sony’s disc proposed a 3.7 gigabyte capacity, or 135 minutes of video.
“This is an enhancement that takes discussions of real estate off the table,” said Mel Harris, head of Sony Television Entertainment, confirming that Sony/Philips has upgraded its one-sided format by including a second layer to compete with the double-sided format advanced by Toshiba/Time Warner, which has a 10 gigabyte capacity.
But Harris did not discuss manufacturing cost of the newly enhanced disc, which requires a photo-polymer process to be added to existing injection mold manufacturing of optical discs, or when the company expected to roll out the DVD.
Sony’s statement said it will be seeking endorsements of its format through “continuing discussions with companies in related industries,” which means that unaligned software providers such as Disney and Microsoft will be watched closely by players in the DVD arena.