Electronics Firms Unify Blue-Laser DVD Standards Tue Feb 19, 6:48 AM ET TOKYO (Reuters) - Nine consumer electronics makers including Japanese giants Sony Corp (news - web sites). and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. said on Tuesday they agreed to uniform standards for next-generation blue-laser DVDs. The pact aims to avoid the fragmentation of standards for DVD (digital versatile disc) recorders that has plagued the current line-up of red-laser products, which feature three separate formats. Blue-laser light, with a shorter wavelength than the red variety, can be honed into a finer beam, enabling it to read and write more bits of information on a given area of disc space. "We are not so far away from producing (blue-laser DVDs) in mass quantities," Jan Oosterveld, a member of Philips Electronics NV's group management committee, told a news conference. He said the consortium's agreement was intended "to end speculation on what we wanted to do with blue laser and to show a uniform face." The new blue-laser format, which could appear in products as early as next year, will feature up to 27 gigabytes of memory on one side of a single 12-cm disc, nearly six times the capacity of current 4.7 gigabyte disks, and store more than two hours of digital high-definition motion pictures. Also agreeing to the format were Japan's Hitachi Ltd. , Pioneer Corp. and Sharp Corp. , South Korea (news - web sites)'s Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and LG Electronics Inc. , and France's Thomson Multimedia . Licensing of the new DVD format will begin in the spring. Company officials repeatedly ducked questions on when they might launch new blue-laser products, although they are widely expected to appear in tandem with the introduction of digital high-definition broadcasting. Japan is likely to launch land-based digital broadcasting in 2003 and steadily shift away from analog over the next several years. Matsushita, owner of the Panasonic brand, and other DVD manufacturers are also developing dual-layer technology using semi-transparent materials to store 50 gigabytes of data on one side of a disc, or about four hours of high-definition video. Electronics industry officials, eager for a hot new product to help pull them out of the info-tech slump, hope the development of high-capacity DVDs and the move to digital high-definition TV and video -- with their voracious appetite for memory -- will spur a switch to DVDs from video cassettes. Company officials added it would be technically possible for manufacturers to develop blue-laser systems that are compatible with existing red-laser products, although it would be up to each company to decide its own strategy on compatibility.