Toshiba has blamed the delayed arrival of the next-generation HD-DVD format on the fact that AACS, the format's copy protection system, has not yet been completed.
The Advanced Access Content System is being developed by the Toshiba-founded AACS Licensing Authority, which released version 0.9 of the system back in April. The AACSLA has previously stated that version 1.0 is scheduled for a release by the end of 2005.
In a statement, Toshiba confirmed that it has already finished designing HD-DVD players for both the US and Japanese markets, and that manufacturing facilities are standing by to begin production.
However, the statement went on, "Various industry participants are in the process of finalizing the last details for implementation of AACS. Because the DVD Forum has adopted AACS as an integral part of the HD-DVD format, Toshiba will launch its HD-DVD products only after AACS is finalized."
"Under these circumstances, Toshiba plans to launch HD-DVD players and notebook PCs with HD-DVD drives in Japan promptly following the implementation of AACS into hardware and software products."
HD-DVD was originally set to launch at the end of this year, but in September Toshiba announced that the date had slipped to Q1 2006. The company is still sticking to this date, but it now looks as though there will be a much narrower gap between the Japanese and US launches.
Blu-Ray - the next-gen format favoured by Sony and HD-DVD's biggest rival - also uses AACS to prevent piracy and is therefore similarly reliant on version 1.0 being completed before player manufacturing begins. Panasonic recently announced that pilot production of Blu-Ray discs has already begun, however.