Toshiba/NEC's high-definition DVD hardware is expected in stores in early 2005.

Toshiba/NEC's high-definition DVD hardware is expected in stores in early 2005.

The manufacturers officially announced last week at a Tokyo showcase that HD-DVD players will be available next year in both the United States and Japan. The Toshiba/NEC format is endorsed by the DVD Forum, an international association of 200 companies.

The rival Blu-ray HD format -- which is backed by 13 manufacturers, including Sony, Samsung, Philips, Dell and Hewlett Packard -- is believed to be introducing its players in the States by the end of 2005. Blu-ray hardware has already launched in Japan.

The only home-video distributor to officially endorse one of the HD formats so far has been Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, whose parent company, Sony, is a key proponent of Blu-ray.

Home-video companies are hoping to avoid an HD format war, though they are not believed to have had official discussions about the matter. In June, at the DVD Lucky 7 conference, most video presidents said that late 2006 or early 2007 would be the ideal time to introduce a new DVD format to the mass market.

Toshiba/NEC's format offers 30 GB storage and compatibility with consumer electronics devices and PCs. Blu-ray's format offers either 25 GB storage (single layer) or 50 GB storage (double layer), potential broadband connectivity and interactive special features.