The Blu-ray disc association said on Thursday it aimed to replace the DVD storage format within three years.

"Within three years it will just be Blu-ray," Frank Simonis, the Blu-ray Disc Association's European chairman, said at the CeBIT technology trade show.

Blu-ray, which offers five times more storage capacity than DVDs for storing high definition films and other content, will first have to beat the rival HD-DVD format which offers somewhat lower storage capacity but claims cheaper production of players, burners and discs.

Measured in the number of players, Blu-ray is already well ahead of HD DVD because Sony's PlayStation 3 (PS3) video games console comes with a built-in Blu-ray player.

Sony Computer Entertainment said it had sold 1.84 million PS3s by the end of December in Japan and North America and that one million PS3s are ready for launch next week in Europe.

The HD DVD camp conceded it is being outsold by Blu-ray because of PS3 by at least five to one, but it claims that sales of movie titles are still level. Film studio 20th Century Fox, which supports Blu-ray, said weekly Blu-ray film sales are actually three times higher than HD DVD.

A total of 5.2 million Blu-ray discs have already been sold, said Nick Sharples at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. Hundreds of thousands of titles have been given away to consumers buying a PS3.

Europe is Behind:

Any difference between regional sales may be explained by the fact that European consumers cannot yet buy PS3s and there are only two Blu-ray players available, Simonis said.

"It's the launch of the hardware, pulling the software. That has yet to play out in Europe," said David Walstra, director of AV technology at Sony.

Sony reiterated its target to have sold six million PS3 game consoles by the end of the year.

Five out of eight major Hollywood studios support only Blu-ray. One studio, Universal, supports only HD DVD.

The HD DVD promotional group, in a separate presentation, said consumers should not only focus on the big blockbuster titles from Hollywood, but also those from regional film houses in Europe and Asia which would bring many titles to HD DVD because it was cheaper and simpler.

Toshiba and Microsoft, as the two main backers of HD DVD, support film studios and production houses to bring out their films on HD DVD, several studios said on Thursday.

Hollywood and electronics manufacturers hope new high-definition DVDs, with better picture quality and more capacity, will rejuvenate the slowing $24 billion home DVD market.

But the war between HD DVD and Blu-ray -- also supported by companies like Samsung, Philips, Matsushita, Apple, and Dell -- has curbed adoption.

However, according to The Digital Bits, "Toshiba's Deputy General manager of HD-DVD, Olivier Van Wynendaele, calls the touted 3 to 1 software sales advantage in favor of Blu-ray 'propaganda.'"

Van Wyendaele boldly asserts that Blu-ray numbers were "artificially inflated by free Blu-ray movie vouchers being redeemed by PlayStation 3 owners."

As both Blu-ray and HD-DVD have done promotions with the players that include shipping various next generation titles, who knows what the exact numbers for units sold is. The point seems to be that a lot of people would like to see this format war end and right now it seems like Blu-ray has an advantage. That said, HD-DVD had the advantage around this time last year so who knows what we'll be talking about in 8 to 10 months?

Evan Jacobs at Movieweb
Evan Jacobs