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Toshiba to Sell HD DVD Players in U.S.

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TOKYO (AP) _ Japanese electronics maker Toshiba Corp. said Thursday it will start selling high-definition players that support its HD DVD format in the United States in March _ the first commercial launch of the next-generation product in the world.

Rival Sony Corp. also said it will start selling players running the competing next-generation video format called Blu-ray disc in the United States in the summer. Plans for when either player will be sold in Japan were not announced.

Toshiba's new HD DVD players _ HD-XA1 and HD-A1, priced at $799 and $499 respectively _ will hit the U.S. market about the time major Hollywood studios are expected to unveil HD DVD movie titles, the company said.

The announcements highlight the intensifying battle for supremacy in the next generation of video discs.

The HD DVD format, jointly developed by another Japanese electronics maker NEC Corp., is incompatible with its main competitor, the Blu-ray Disc, which is backed by Sony and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., maker of Panasonic brand products.

Sony has already started selling video recorders and is planning the PlayStation 3 game consoles using Blu-ray Disc technology. Sony did not give a price for the planned Blu-ray Disc players.

``Blu-ray Disc technology is the final piece needed to complete our vision of the high-definition world,'' Hideki Komiyama, president and chief operating officer for Sony Electronics Inc., said in a statement.

Both formats deliver dazzling images in high-definition video and can store much more data than today's DVDs, allowing for more interactive features, like watching a movie while simultaneously watching the director discuss the scene.

The HD DVD format is supported by Universal Studios, Warner Bros. and Intel Corp., as well as Microsoft Corp., which hopes its new Xbox 360 video game console will challenge Sony's PlayStation.

Blu-ray is backed by Apple Computer Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc., along with a variety of other tech companies and studios.

Through extensive discussions and cooperation with major Hollywood studios, major retailers and other interested parties, Toshiba has ``closely investigated the optimum launch date'' for the HD DVDs in the United States, the company said.

``Going forward, HD DVD is destined to be a key driver for progress and the development of the consumer electronics, IT and entertainment industries,'' said Yoshihide Fujii, Toshiba's corporate senior vice president and president of digital medial network company.

More details of the HD-XA1 and HD-X1 were to be shown at the Consumer Electronics Show this week in Las Vegas, Toshiba said.

Toshiba spokeswoman Hiroko Mochida said the company has not yet set a date on when to sell the new HD DVD players in Japan, pending a copy protection issue.
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