Toshiba's new president and CEO, Atsutoshi Nishida, said Monday that his company is still interested in sitting down with competitors to talk about a unified format for high-definition video discs.

Toshiba is one of the main developers and backers of the HD-DVD format. A second group of companies led by Sony and Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic) has developed a format called Blu-ray Disc.

"I think the three parties need to sit down together and we need to be willing to integrate," he said at a news conference late Monday.

Both formats are being positioned as the replacement for today's DVDs for high-definition content, and at present all indications point to a format battle beginning later this year when the first HD-DVD players are due on the market. Blu-ray Disc players are expected to follow in 2006.

Consumers suffer from standards battle

Because most major movie companies have come down in favour of one or the other of the two formats, rather than both, it also looks likely that consumers will find that some of their favourite movies aren't available for their machines should they purchase a new player.

The two sides have held talks in the last few months aimed at a common format but they have so far come to nothing.

Pride could be playing a part in the impasse. The physical structure of the disc for each format is different, so unifying the formats would mean having to chose one structure over the other. In doing so, it would be difficult for the format that wasn't used to avoid the appearance of having lost the race.

Pride before the fall?

Toshiba's prime consideration is the interests of consumers and the company pursues any course that benefits them, said Nishida, who took the top job at Toshiba on Friday. On disc structure, the company has argued that its format is superior because it is similar to current DVDs, and so can be produced cheaply on existing production lines.

The Blu-ray Disc group maintains its format is superior because it can hold more data, accommodating longer movies and additional features, extras and interactive content.

Nishida's comments were made at a news conference held with Microsoft at which Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman and chief software architect, said the two companies will explore ways in which Windows CE technology can be employed in HD-DVD's interactive platform.