LG, one of the main backers of the Blu-ray Disc format, has started working on a player for the rival HD-DVD format, the company said at the CeBit trade show in Hanover, Germany, today.

Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD are new optical-disc formats that are being positioned as replacements for DVD for high-definition content. Both formats are planned for launch in the first half of this year. Discs for one won't work on players designed for the other so consumers face a choice between the two or a wait until a clear victor in the battle emerges.

"We are still behind Blu-ray Disc," said Annegees van Ligne, a spokeswoman for the company, "but we are preparing an HD-DVD player."

The move makes LG the latest Blu-ray Disc supporter to shift position. In late 2005 HP said it would support HD-DVD. LG stressed that its main support still lies with Blu-ray Disc, but that it's working on an HD-DVD player in case that format proves popular.

At present it's difficult to pick a likely winner in the battle. Both sides trumpet their technology as superior to the competition, but all of the pieces are yet to be put in place. For example, issues such as region coding are yet to be decided. Details are still being worked out on copy protection and other issues that could have an impact on user preference.

In terms of price the HD-DVD format appears to have the edge among the first group of players. Toshiba is planning to launch two HD-DVD players in the US in March for $500 (about £290) and $800 (£460) while the cheapest Blu-ray Disc players yet disclosed will cost $1,000 (£580) when they hit shelves in May.

Blu-ray Disc is backed by a group headed by Sony that also includes Panasonic, Samsung, Dell, HP, Hitachi, LG, Mitsubishi, Philips, Pioneer, Sharp, TDK and Thomson.

The HD-DVD format is backed by a smaller number of major consumer electronics brands but has the backing of the DVD Forum, the group behind the DVD format. It's major backers include Toshiba, NEC, Sanyo, Intel and Microsoft.