The long-anticipated third high-def disc format (yes, you read right) is set to hit US shores this October.
Short for "Versatile Multilayer Disc," the VMD format was originally announced back in 2006, but had evaded US release until now.
Developed by UK technology company New Medium Enterprises (NME), the format's red laser multilayer disc is currently capable of storing 15 to 20 GB on a single layer, with plans to grow that number to 30GB.
But according to its manufacturer, the real sell of VMD is its ability to deliver the same high-quality video and audio as Blu-ray and HD DVD at a fraction of the cost -- both to the consumer, and the content creator.
While disc production costs for Blu-ray and HD DVD are said to run somewhere between $2 to $3 a unit, VMD discs reportedly cost just over a $1/unit to produce, only slightly more than standard-def DVD.
In terms of hardware cost to the consumer, NME says its first player will hit the US market in October at a $199 price point, roughly 30% less than any standalone high-def disc player currently available (although Venturer recently announced plans to release its own $199 1080i HD DVD player in time for the holidays).
Price aside, VMD is likely to face an uphill battle both for recognizable high-def content, and for shelf space at retailers.
The company's press release includes no mention of any US-based content partners, and it seems highly unlikely that any of the major studios will make their films available on VMD disc -- at least in the short term. (Overseas, the company has partnered with a number indie film distributors, most notably including Eastern Europe's Monolith Films which owns regional rights to films like 'Apocalypto,' 'Lord of War,' and '16 Blocks.')
On the retail side, so far NME has only identified one US retailer who will carry its players -- pcRUSH.com
NME is demonstrating its new player this week at the CEDIA Expo.