HD DVD to Hit Europe in Nov.

The battle between HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc for the hearts, minds and wallets of European consumers will start to gather momentum in November when Toshiba puts on sale its first HD-DVD players in Europe.

As in the United States, Toshiba will sell two models in Europe. A 599-euro model (US$769) will be available in November and a 899-euro model will go on sale a month later, the company said at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin.

That means European consumers will be paying a higher price for the entry-level player than their counterparts in the United States, where Toshiba sells its HD-A1 for US$499.

The Toshiba players have much in common. The HD-E1 and HD-XE1 both play a wide range of optical discs including HD DVD, DVD and CDs. However, only the more expensive HD-XE1 supports video output at full high-definition of 1,080 lines and progressive scanning (1080p). The HD-E1 will manage up to 1080i, which almost certainly beats the TV in your living room right now, although it’s regarded as slightly inferior to the 1080p format.

The HD-XE1 can also upscale standard definition video to make it appear more like high-definition when viewed through a high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) connector. It also includes analog outputs and a more up-to-date version of HDMI (version 1.3 versus 1.2 on the HD-E1).

Several movie studios said they would put HD-DVD video discs on sale in Europe to coincide with the launch of Toshiba’s player.

Among the European studios, Studio Canal plans 10 movies in November and another 15 by March 2007, Pathe Distribution will make the French science-fiction movie Renaissance available in HD DVD at launch, and 2 Entertain said it will release the BBC’s Planet Earth program.

Hollywood studios including Paramount Home Entertainment International, Universal Pictures International and Warner Home Video said they would put on sale more than 25 titles including Apollo 13, Constantine, GoodFellas, Jarhead and Lethal Weapon.

A day earlier at the same exhibition in Berlin, a group of companies backing the rival Blu-ray Disc format said titles and players would begin appearing "from the fall" in Europe and Japan, meaning around October and November.

However, among the player makers, only Koninklijke Philips Electronics came close to specifying a date for the start of player sales in Europe. The company said its BDP9000 player will be available in early 2007. Sony Computer Entertainment’s PlayStation 3 game console, which includes a Blu-ray Disc drive, is due on sale worldwide in November.

-Martyn Williams, IDG News Service (Tokyo Bureau)

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