March 10 (Bloomberg) -- Apple Computer Inc. backed Sony Corp.'s Blu-ray format for the next generation of digital-video discs, bolstering Sony's effort to dominate the $26.1 billion U.S. market for DVDs and players.
Apple, whose computers including the iMac run software to create DVDs, joined the Blu-Ray Disc Association's board, Blu-ray said today in a statement. Sony is fighting to win support over Toshiba Corp. and NEC Corp.'s HD-DVD standard.
The competing formats promise high-definition pictures, better sound quality, more capacity and improved copyright protection than standard DVDs. Gaining support of film studios and computer makers such as Cupertino, California-based Apple will help determine the dominant standard. Blue-ray has five times more storage capacity than current discs, and more than the HD-DVD standard.
``Capacity is everything'' for personal computer makers, Ted Schadler, an analyst at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Forrester Research Inc., said in an interview yesterday. ``In capacity, Blu- ray is much better.''
Blu-Ray's backers include Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., the world's No. 1 and No. 2 personal-computer makers; Tokyo-based Sony, the world's largest maker of consumer products; Walt Disney Co., the second-largest media company, and Thomson SA, the largest supplier of recorded DVDs.
Film studios including Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema, General Electric Co.'s Universal Pictures and Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures said they will adopt HD-DVD. The studios may agree later to also release movies on Blu-ray discs.
The Blu-ray Disc Association, with more than 100 members, develops specifications, including compatibility, for the Blu-ray format and promotes the standard.
Apple shares rose 32 cents to $39.68 at 3:30 p.m. in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading.
The name Blu-ray Disc refers to the blue laser used to read from and record to the new format DVD, according to the Blu-ray Web site. Today's DVDs and CDs work with a red laser.
The blue laser enables more data to be written on a disc, the association said. HD DVD discs have about four times the capacity of standard DVDs, while Blu-ray discs have up to five times more storage.
A Blu-ray disc can hold up to 50 gigabytes of storage capacity, which is equivalent to the memory on about 10 DVDs or about 70 music CDs, according to the Web site. The discs can store text, documents, images, and audio and video files.
Apple, led by Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs, became one of the first PC makers to offer consumers a way to record or ``burn'' DVDs on their computers when it released its SuperDrive for the Mac in January 2001. Apple will support the new high- definition DVD format in its iMovie and Final Cut video-editing software programs, Blu-ray said.
``Apple has done a good job in video editing,'' said Josh Peterson, director of strategic alliances at Hewlett-Packard's optical storage business. He estimated 85 percent of all consumer- electronics makers are supporting Blu-ray. ``A lot of their products revolve around high-definition video.''
The Pixar animation studio, also headed by Jobs, hasn't yet picked a format. Jobs said on a Feb. 10 Pixar conference call with investors that he hoped the industry would settle on one standard soon so the format could ``take off'' in 2007 and 2008.
About 69 percent of all households with televisions were expected to have DVD players in 2004, with that number rising to about 89 percent in 2008, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP report released in June. U.S. sales and rentals standard- format DVDs rose 6.7 percent in 2004, the report said.
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