Intel announced on Tuesday its official backing for Toshiba's next-generation HD DVD format, which is set to go head-to-head with Sony's Blu-ray in a replay of the rivalry a generation ago between VHS and Betamax video cassette tapes.

"We'd been hoping the two groups would find a common format for the sake of consumers' benefit but apparently those efforts failed," said Masatoshi Mizuno, a spokesman for Intel in Japan.

Microsoft meanwhile plans to incorporate software supporting Toshiba's DVD format in its next-generation OS Windows Vista, said a spokesman for the software behemoth, Kazunori Ishii.

Toshiba also announced it had developed the first laptop computer with a next-generation HD DVD drive.

High definition

Toshiba, in collaboration with South Korea's Samsung, will start selling personal computers with a slim HD DVD drive designed specifically for laptops by the start of next year in Japan.

Toshiba will sell PCs with a slim
high-definition DVD drive

The company said demand was growing for high-definition images.

"Toshiba has responded to this trend by promoting the advanced imaging capabilities of the next-generation HD DVD format and has now brought HD DVD to portable computing, the fastest growing segment of the computer market," it said in a statement.

The face-off between the HD DVD and Blu-ray formats has echoes of the battle a generation ago between VHS and Sony's ill-fated Betamax, which eventually became extinct when customers opted for its rival.

Better standard?

Next-generation DVDs, expected to hit the mass market later this year, are billed as offering cinematic-quality images and opening up new possibilities in interactive entertainment.

Toshiba last month said it was in talks with Sony to find a common format, but in the absence of an agreement it was going ahead with production of its own format.

Sony's Blu-ray disc is expected to have a greater storage capacity than the HD DVD, but also to be more expensive to make, at least in the short term, as the format has greater differences from current-generation DVDs.

Whatever the outcome, analysts doubt consumers will have to wait long before multi-functional DVD players arrive to overcome the format differences.