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Still fighting with your VCR? Get ready to fall even farther behind on the technology curve.

The DVD stands out as one of the most rapidly adopted consumer technologies ever, but in the electronics industry it’s akin to an aging king in Shakespearean drama — rivals are lurking, knives drawn.

Just as consumers are beginning to get comfortable with their DVD players, electronics manufacturers are set to introduce next-generation discs that store more — and would be harder to copy.

A dozen companies, headed by Sony, are pushing a disc called the Blu-ray.

The other main contender, the High Definition DVD, is promoted only by Toshiba and NEC. But it has an important endorsement from an industry group and is also expected to get Microsoft’s support as the software giant seeks a toehold for its multimedia format in the consumer electronics arena.

Movie studios generally aren’t commenting on the new formats. And the rival industry groups are not saying exactly when they expect to have players on the market. Both, however, consider the DVD ripe for replacement next year.

For consumers, the benefit of a new format would be better image quality. Sales of high-definition TV sets have finally started to take off, but current DVDs don’t have the resolution to get the most out of HDTV sets.

Great. Even if I could justify an HDTV (which I can’t) and even if there were some place in the house where it would fit (which there isn’t), I figure scoring the TiVo means I’ve used up my allowance of technological indulgences until, oh, 2008 or so. I suppose on the bright side, video tapes are still being rented and sold, so I may not feel the fullness of my obsolecense until then anyway. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

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