Sony and Microsoft are duking it out in every possible respect, and one of the biggest issues revolves around the format war. Microsoft's Xbox 360 is backing Toshiba's HD-DVD with November's release of the HD-DVD add-on, and Sony is pushing their new Blu-Ray functionality, which is part of the PS3's hardware.

A final resolution probably isn't likely any time soon, but in the meantime, NEC has devised a chip that could help companies bridge the gap. The chip, which is basically a controller, works for both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players, and this chip could cut the cost of building a player that is compatible with both formats.

NEC has plans to begin shipping the chip in April 2007, but a combo-player could take a little longer to produce. Initially, companies like Pioneer and LG announced they'd pursue combination players, but they've since backed down. The reason is mostly due to the cost. Blu-Ray players cost about $1,000, and the player/recorders run up to $3,200. HD-DVD players start off at about $500, but the recorders cost about the same. The components for everything are still very expensive, although they do expect declining costs next year.

But even with those price drops, building a hybrid player would certainly have to include redundant components. Futhermore, royalties are a big factor. The companies that created the standards are set to make millions in licensing fees, provided that standard gets widely adopted. And therefore, if there were to be a hybrid player, the royalties would have to be split between both camps.

Either way, both sides remain pretty darn passionate about who's "right" and who's "wrong." Last week at a Ceatec trade show in Japan, Kazuhiro Tsuga, an executive officer at Matsushita Electric and a staunch supporter of Blu-Ray, answered one question with a very straightforward reply. In response to the possibility of a hybrid Blu-Ray/HD-DVD player, he said-

"That is stupid, stupid."

However, other manufacturers are more open-minded, especially if the format wars ultimately hinder sales. Hitachi, a company currently developing a camcorder that will record directly to Blu-Ray discs, said it will look into the issue of a combo-player, but after Blu-Ray is already established in the marketplace.

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