Earlier this week at the DVD conference in Los Angeles, Carl Pinto, vice president of product development and product management at Toshiba, predicted that notebook computers with HD DVD drives should cost $1,000 by Christmas. Until recently, an HD DVD-capable computer would cost at least $400 to $600 more because of the expense of the HD DVD drive and added requirements for better video cards and CPUs. Thanks to newer technology, the additional expense has been lowered dramatically, and Pinto says, “Our goal for the third quarter of 2008 is to bring that cost down to under $100.” Intel backed up this assertion last month at the Intel Developer Forum by announcing support for high-definition video decoding on their hardware.

A laptop is essentially a portable HDTV system, and there are many people who use them in this manner, whether they live in a small space or while traveling. Making HD DVD drives available (eventually as standard equipment) on notebooks and desktop computers is part of the strategy to ensure that you’re surrounded by HD DVD everywhere. Toshiba and HP have already been making HD DVD drives available on their products, and both of them joined Acer and others in announcing new HD DVD-equipped notebook and desktop PCs for October.

Appearing in Australian stores this month, Acer’s Aspire M5630 comes with a combo HD DVD drive that also plays Blu-ray discs. It uses LG’s combo drive, which LG is using in their own LX97WH XPION desktop computer sold in Korea.

Much closer to home in the USA, Hewlett Packard (HP) introduced HD DVD and Blu-ray capable desktop PCs just last week on their d4995t, m9000z, and m9000t Pavilion models. These drives can all view Blu-ray, HD DVD, and DVD, with an option to burn Blu-ray as well. These upgraded drives are $250-$400 more than the standard DVD burning drives. These PCs also have options for TV tuning and recording, so the high-def disc aspect essentially rounds out what many would consider to be the features of an HTPC (home theater PC), though these aren’t touted as such.

In the laptop arena, UK’s Rock Direct was first to offer HD DVD as a standard drive on a notebook PC. The Pegasus goes for about £1,000 and higher depending on configuration. Toshiba initially made HD DVD drives available on their high-end $3,000 Qosmio laptops, but these drives are now available on their $1,150 A series and $1,300 P series Satellite laptops as well.

I think it’s interesting that HP, Acer, and LG are guiding customers towards a dual-format solution. It would be cheaper for them to offer only HD DVD, but once somebody’s already headed down the path of paying $1,000 and up for a high-def system, an extra $100 to support both formats is more of a bonus than a penalty.

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