In the latest addition to the next-generation DVD format war between HD DVD and Blu-ray, Microsoft and Intel say they are backing the Toshiba-led HD DVD format.

LOS ANGELES -- In the latest addition to the next-generation DVD format war between HD DVD and Blu-ray, Microsoft and Intel say they are backing the Toshiba-led HD DVD format.

HD DVD, which is also supported by NEC and Sanyo, may reach the market as early as this fourth quarter, though wide release is now expected in the first quarter of 2006.

Rival next-generation format Blu-ray, which is led by Sony and backed by a consortium including Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Panasonic, Philips, Pioneer, Samsung, Hitachi, JVC, LG, Mitsubishi and Sharp, is also expected in the marketplace in early 2006.

Though the two sides had discussed coming together to release one HD format into the marketplace, it is believed that these talks have broken down.

It is unknown how Microsoft and Intel's support of HD DVD will affect the debate. The HD DVD camp has touted that its products are easier and less costly to manufacture than Blu-ray, while Blu-ray is expected to offer higher quality audio and sound and more storage capability than HD DVD.

On the software side, HD DVD is backed by Warner Home Video, New Line Home Entertainment, Paramount Home Entertainment and Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

Blu-ray software is supported by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Lions Gate Entertainment.