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Toshiba, Japan’s second largest electronics conglomerate and the main force behind HD DVD, said at a press conference that the company would only start selling HD DVD players to consumers in the U.S. in February or March, 2006. The move was made in order to accumulate stock of players as well as actual HD DVDs and start sales in on a wide scale.

“We have been discussing with content holders the most effective way to launch in the U.S. market, and it will probably be in February or March,” Toshiba corporate senior vice president Yoshihide Fujii said, Reuters reports.

Toshiba said it still had plans to introduce HD DVD players in the Japanese market by the year-end. By contrast, rivals Sony and Matsushita Electronics also plan to release players supporting competing Blu-ray standard also in 2006. For instance, Sony’s highly-anticipated PlayStation 3 game console is expected to be introduced in Spring or Summer 2006. 

Earlier Toshiba already indicated that it was in talks with content makers and retailers regarding the best shipment timeframe for the HD DVD products. Toshiba then insisted that the change in the launch schedule was intended to “maximize potential demand for the new products”. Usually companies tend to release certain advanced products before holiday season, as customers usually spend more before Christmas. One of the reasons for Toshiba to delay HD DVD product shipments to the U.S. might be inability to get a lot of players to the market, as mass production only starts in December.

HD DVD discs can store up to 15GB on a single layer and up to 30GB on two layers. Its competitor, Blu-ray, can store up to 27GB per single layer as well as support a variety of additional features, including advanced copy-protection mechanisms, but Blu-ray discs are more expensive to produce. The HD DVD is pushed aggressively by Toshiba and NEC as well as being standardized at the DVD Forum, which represents over 230 consumer electronics, information technology, and content companies worldwide. Blu-ray is backed by Sony and Panasonic, the world’s No.1 and No.3 makers of electronics. Among Hollywood studios HD is supported by Warner Bros. Studios, New Line Cinema, Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures, whereas Sony Pictures, Walt Disney and Twentieth Century Fox endorse Blu-ray.

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