After losing out in the battle to define the high-definition successor of the DVD, Toshiba has turned its attention to the next best thing: the DVD.
On Monday, the Japanese electronics company is to release a new DVD player it says does more than previous models to improve the look of DVDs on high-definition TVs.
The XD-E500 will sell for a suggested $149.99 — twice as much as regular "upconverting" players, which also improve the look of a DVD — but it is less than half the price of a Blu-ray player.
The Blu-ray disc, championed by Sony, early this year beat out Toshiba's HD DVD to become the dominant format for high-definition discs. Toshiba has stopped making HD DVD players. In a demonstration to reporters last week, Toshiba played the same disc in an XDE player and a standard upscaling model on side-by-side LCD HDTVs. The new player produced a subtle but noticeable sharpening of the image.
Toshiba didn't demonstrate the XDE against a Blu-ray or HD DVD player, and Louis Masses, director of product planning at Toshiba America Consumer Products, was careful to stress that it's not meant to compete with or replace Blu-ray. "If you want Blu-ray, go get Blu-ray. This product is meant to improve playback of DVDs," Masses said.
In emphasising DVDs, Toshiba is playing up to a difficulty for Blu-ray marketers: most US consumers are happy with DVDs, according to a recent study by ABI Research, and don't believe Blu-ray provides as big of a quality jump as DVDs did over VHS tapes.
Masses said the XDE technology will be used in other players, and the brand will be promoted extensively.
Blu-ray players have six times the image detail of a DVD, and upscaling players, even those using XDE technology, can't overcome that. But they can sharpen edges to overcome the blurriness of a DVD when displayed on a large screen.
Three years after their launch, Blu-ray players are popular with home-theater aficionados but have not caught on in the mainstream, except through the Sony's PlayStation 3 game console, which can play Blu-ray discs.