Corporate groups led by Sony Corp. and Toshiba Corp. are mulling joint development of a unified standard for next-generation DVDs, sources said Thursday.

The two rival camps, which have been promoting the competing standards Blu-ray and HD DVD, plan to reach an accord on a common standard by the end of this month, the sources said.

But sources close to the talks said that while both camps have agreed on the need for a unified standard, each is strongly pressing to have its own core technology chosen as the new standard. Both have pumped huge funds into research and development.

They have already talked to Hollywood film studios to win their support for a unified format, they said.

Blu-ray and HD DVD are incompatible, meaning a Sony Blu-ray movie disc, for example, would not play on a Toshiba HD DVD player. The tug-of-war between the two groups had also led to a split in Hollywood over which standard to adopt.

Ongoing rivalry would have caused consternation and inconvenience for consumers, similar to the war between the VHS and Betamax videocassette formats in the 1980s.

After competing for the past three years to win support for their respective technologies, the two camps decided to consider a hybrid format out of the belief that a unified standard was necessary if next-generation DVD players and software titles are to become widely used.

“In developing conventional DVDs, manufacturers were able to unify just before it would have been too late,” a source said. “It is desirable to have a single standard for next-generation DVDs as well.”

Observers attributed the detente to concern shared by both sides that a format war would only weaken them amid intensifying international competition and the increasing versatility of digital devices.

Hollywood studios also seek a unified standard, which would make it less costly for them when selling DVDs.

Sony and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. debuted the Blu-ray format in February 2002. Toshiba and NEC Corp. soon followed with HD DVD.

While both standards can accommodate a movie on a single disc in high-definition format, their data structures are very different.

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