Broadcom could help PC and DVD manufacturers sidestep the choice between two high-definition recording standards with a chip that can decode signals recorded in either format.

The chip company unveiled the BCM7411D chip Tuesday, ahead of the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) where high-definition players and recorders based on the Blu-Ray and HD DVD standards are expected to be showcased.

Double standards for format peace

A new recording standard is needed to accommodate the rapacious storage requirements of high-definition video, but as with the DVD-RW and DVD+RW and VHS-versus-Betamax debates, two different standards backed by industry heavyweights have emerged. Blu-Ray is supported by consumer electronics vendors Sony and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co (Panasonic) as well as PC vendors Dell and Apple. HD DVD is backed by Toshiba, NEC, Intel, and Microsoft. Major entertainment companies have announced support for both standards.

Video recorded using one standard will not play on DVD players built using the other standard, which promises to frustrate consumers looking to play DVDs from one movie studio on both their PCs and living-room DVD players. But Broadcom's technology will allow PCs or DVD players using the chips to play video recorded with either standard, said Jonathan Goldberg, senior product line manager with Broadcom.

100 per cent satisified

The chip supports the H.264 and VC-1 recording standards, both of which are used by Blu-Ray and HD DVD recording technology. It also supports video recorded in the high-definition MPEG-2 format. The company released a reference design with the BCM7411D and a companion chip that gives manufacturers a blueprint to build high-definition DVD players.

"Our chipset will play 100 per cent of HD DVD and 100 per cent of Blu-Ray, and all the special features that come with that," Goldberg said.

Toshiba was supposed to have the first HD DVD recorder out by the end of last year, but a delay in the finalisation of a key copy-protection technology has pushed back the launch date. Blu-Ray recorders are expected to launch later in 2006. Devices based on both standards will get a thorough airing this week in Las Vegas at CES.