The DVD Forum has approved the physical disc specifications for the rewritable version of HD-DVDs (High Definition/High Density-DVDs), taking the format an important step nearer to mass production.

At a meeting in Taiwan on September 22, the association approved version 1.0 of the HD-DVD-RW physical specification, which covers a single-layer disc with a capacity of 20GB, Junko Furuta, a Toshiba spokeswoman, said today.

Version 1.0 is the key specification that allows manufacturers to consider mass production of a product involving new technologies.

Three movies to a disc

The association also approved version 0.9 physical specifications for the HD-DVD-R (recordable) disc at the same meeting. The HD-DVD-R discs will be single-layer 15GB capacity discs, Furuta said. Version 1.0 is expected to be approved by the association in February 2005, Yoshihide Fujii, president and CEO of Toshiba Digital Media Network Company, said at a news conference in Tokyo on Tuesday.

The organization approved version 1.0 of the physical specifications for HD-DVD-ROM discs in June this year. HD-DVD-ROMs will be single-layer, 15GB discs or dual-layer, 30GB discs.

The physical specification defines the physical properties of the disc such as the number of layers and capacity. The application specifications, which define how data signals are written into the structure of the discs, will be decided before the end of February 2005, Furuta said.

The approval is the latest step between two major formats which are battling to replace DVDs with optical discs that store much more data.

In the Blue-ray corner

Opposing the HD-DVD format, the Blu-ray Disc format is backed by Sony, Dell, HP, Hitachi, LG Electronics, Panasonic, Mitsubishi Electric, Philips Electronics, Pioneer Electronics, Samsung, Sharp, TDK and Thomson Multimedia.

Toshiba and others, including Samsung and NEC, are forming an association to promote HD-DVD, citing the format's ease of manufacturing in comparison to Blu-Ray as reason to support it.

Last week, Sony said its upcoming PlayStation 3 games console will be compatible with the Blu-ray Disc format.

Toshiba expects to start commercial sales of HD-DVD players and recorders in the final three months of 2005, with players to cost under US$1,000, according to Furuta.

The DVD Forum is an association of over 220 consumer electronics, entertainment, software and related companies that determines DVD disc specifications. At the meeting in Taiwan it also approved four audio codecs for HD-DVD, Furuta said. Apple is a member of the association.