HD DVD Studios to Join Microsoft, Toshiba in Promoting HDi

Apparently as part of a separate effort from the HD DVD Promotional Group, Toshiba and Microsoft announced tomorrow morning Asia/Pacific time (this afternoon US time) they will form a new coalition dedicated to promoting the HDi interactive layer used in HD DVD.

The charter members of the Advanced Interactivity Consortium will consist of Paramount (along with its DreamWorks Animation unit), Warner Bros., and Universal Studios. These well-known studios have apparently made a commitment to release HD DVD titles in the near future -- a timeframe has not been publicly specified -- that will feature advanced overlaid menuing, bookmarking, Internet connectivity including download capability, and online shopping.

Missing from the list is Disney, which played a major role in the creation of what is now called HDi, but which today is firmly in the Blu-ray camp. Earlier, a Microsoft spokesperson told BetaNews that the company continues to acknowledge Disney's contribution to the HD DVD interactive layer, but that HDi should be interpreted as Microsoft's specific implementation of the standard - implying that other implementations could co-exist, even for other disc formats.


In a statement this afternoon, Microsoft entertainment and devices president Robbie Bach carried on that language: "We look forward to contributing to this effort with HDi, our implementation of HD DVD's interactive layer, and to collaborate with AIC members on how to extend interactive compatibilities to the consumer electronics market. The goal is to ensure a high-quality experience not only through optical discs but also through new digital download services."

New AIC member Universal announced its pending release yesterday of the first title that could qualify under the AIC specifications, and will probably bear the HDi logo as a result: the Steve Carell comedy Evan Almighty. For now, the plan is for the HDi logo to appear on discs that comply with Microsoft's standard, as well as on Toshiba-brand HD DVD consoles.

Perhaps not by coincidence, Universal Studios Home Entertainment President Craig Kornblau received star treatment from today's AIC charter announcement, as the sole representative of the studios to make a statement: "By following a standards-based approach, this collaboration will uniformly benefit consumers as well as the industry."

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