China creates own high-def optical format; could spell HD DVD/Blu-ray Disc price drops

While western market consumers deal with HD DVD, Blu-ray Disc, and perhaps soon HD VMD, the Chinese market will get its own separate high-definition optical format specific to its region.

The Optical Memory National Engineering Research Center (OMNERC), a laboratory dedicated to optical disc research at Tsinghua University in Beijing, announced last week CH-DVD – which stands for China High Definition DVD – as a new generation high definition DVD format.

Rather than developing a completely new technology, CH-DVD is based on HD DVD technology, which means the employment of blue-violet lasers rather than the red lasers used in regular DVD.

The development and realization CH-DVD technology is supported by the Chinese government. It is currently unclear if the DVD Forum – those responsible for the HD DVD specification – had any part in developing the format. The Chinese group behind CH-DVD, however, is partnering with the DVD Forum and other related bodies to form the China High Definition DVD Industry Association.

Perhaps in hopes of keeping the abundance of piracy in China at bay, CH-DVD is said to adopt an “advanced copy protection technology” that the Chinese government hopes to effectively prevent the spread of pirated copy. It’s unknown if CH-DVD is using a new form of copy protection, though the AACS scheme used by Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD was defeated earlier this year.

The China High Definition DVD Industry Association said that it will “make a big push to launch CH-DVD player into the Chinese market in 2008” and “encourage all related industries to... to make the transition from standard definition DVD to high definition DVD.”

Although the development of a foreign high-definition format may be relatively meaningless to North American and European consumers, the fact that China is formally adopting a blue-violet laser technology could have far reaching effects on production costs of Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD hardware.

Assuming that the optical assemblies for CH-DVD are similar, manufacturers of HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc players may be able to take advantage of the scale of Chinese production. Inexpensive, made-in-China high-definition machines have already been begun showing up on the radar with Venturer Electronics’ HD DVD player along with the hint of Wal-Mart’s own special HD-player deal.

"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins

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