LG Electronics, one of the main backers of the Blu-ray Disc format, has started working on a player for the rival HD-DVD format, the company declared at CeBit on Friday.

Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD products should launch in the first half of 2006. Discs for one won't work on players designed for the other so consumers must either take a risk or wait for a dominant format to emerge.

"We are still behind Blu-ray Disc," said Annegees van Ligne, a spokeswoman for the company, "but we are preparing an HD-DVD player."

The move makes LG the latest Blu-ray Disc supporter to shift position. In late 2005 HP said it would also support HD-DVD. LG stressed that its main support still lies with Blu-ray Disc, but that it's working on an HD-DVD player in case that format proves popular.

At present it's difficult to pick a likely winner in the battle. Both sides trumpet their technology as superior to the competition but all of the pieces are yet to be put in place. For example, issues such as region coding are yet to be decided and details are still being worked out on copy protection or other issues that could have an impact on user preference.

In terms of price the HD-DVD format appears to have the edge among the first group of players. Toshiba plans to launch two HD-DVD players in the US in March for $500 and $800 while the cheapest Blu-ray Disc players yet disclosed will cost $1,000 when they hit shelves in May.