TOKYO - Sony Corp (SNE.N). and Toshiba Corp. said Thursday they are in negotiations about how to resolve their competing next-generation optical disk formats, aiming to give consumers a unified video technology.

But both sides played down a report in the business daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun Thursday that said the Japanese electronics makers were on the verge of agreeing on a compromise "hybrid" next-generation DVD format as soon as this month.

In the battle for a high-definition successor to DVDs, Tokyo-based Sony — which also has movie, music and video-game businesses — leads an international group promoting the Blu-ray Disc format. A rival group led by Toshiba is promoting the HD-DVD format. Each has the support of several big electronics makers and movie studios.

The rivalry could spur another battle between standards reminiscent of the fight in the 1980s in videocassette recorder standards, between the Sony-backed Beta and VHS, backed by Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. VHS eventually won that battle. In next-generation DVDs, Matsushita-owned Panasonic is in the same Blu-ray camp as Sony.

Blu-ray has more capacity, now at 50 gigabytes than HD-DVD at 30 gigabytes, but proponents of HD-DVD say their format is cheaper to make because the production method is similar to current DVDs.

The Nihon Keizai report was surprising because both electronics makers have repeatedly expressed confidence about their standards. They have been wooing Hollywood studios, and both manufacturers are believed to have placed their futures with their respective formats.

Some Blu-ray standard products are already on the market although they have not sold in big numbers. Sony has said its next-generation video-game console, the so-called PlayStation 3, will run on Blu-ray.

Sony spokesman Taro Takamine denied anything had been decided. The talks are part of the company's efforts to bring the "best experience" to the consumer, and any deal, if it happens, is likely to result in technological cooperation in future developments for Blu-ray, he said.

Toshiba also denied a deal was in the works. The company recognizes a single format is best for consumers, but that doesn't necessarily mean executives are prepared to agree on a hybrid, spokesman Keisuke Omori said.

The Nihon Keizai report said Hollywood executives and electronics manufacturers are discussing whether to merge the two competing formats, which are on a collision course and are threatening to delay the arrival of high-definition movies and games worldwide.

The Nikkei reported that, after reaching an agreement that a unified standard would be desirable, the two firms are now looking to develop a hybrid standard that takes advantage of each standard's strengths.

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