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Sony says single standard for new DVDs is `unlikely'

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Ken Kutaragi, who helped invent Sony Corp's PlayStation game console, said creating a single standard for new DVDs that can store more high-definition movies and pictures than current discs is unlikely.

Sony and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co, which lead a group that developed the Blu-ray disc, have been in talks to unify their format with the HD DVD disc promoted by Toshiba Corp and NEC Corp. The competing formats for the new DVDs promise high-definition pictures, better sound quality, more capacity and improved copyright protection than standard DVDs.

The chances of unifying the formats are "almost none," Kutaragi, president of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc, said yesterday at a meeting with reporters in Tokyo. "It's very difficult."

Sony is counting on the support of film studios and game software developers to make Blu-ray the dominant standard, and already has the backing of Walt Disney Co and Electronic Arts Inc. The Tokyo-based company is trying to avoid a repeat of past failures, such as its Betamax format losing out to VHS as the video standard more than two decades ago.

"A unified market can help the company increase its content quickly," said Ken Kamoshita, who manages the equivalent of US$25 million, including Sony shares, at Tokyo-based DLIBJ Asset Management. "A breakdown in talks would make many things uncertain in that business."

Blu-ray discs have as much as 20 times more storage capacity than the 4.7 gigabytes offered by current DVDs, while HD DVD can store about 10 times more data.

Both sides have highlighted the problems in creating a unified standard for the discs, which use a blue laser to read and record information. Blu-ray's recording layer is located 0.1mm from the surface of the disc, compared with 0.6mm for HD DVD.

"With the dialogue focusing on 0.1 and 0.6, there is no way for the two sides to divide things fairly," Kutaragi said.

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