Digital video discs (DVD) will be the same size as a compact disc and will store eight hours of material with very high quality sound.
To begin with, DVD will be a play-only system, with the disc-players costing from pounds 500 to pounds 700 and a disc costing between pounds 9 and pounds 15.
They will be on the market in the United States and Japan by Christmas and reach British shops in the new year.
Next year, a version of the system that can make recordings should be launched. However, this will only enable the user to record on the disc once. It could take another two years before a fully re-recordable version of the DVD system comes on to the market.
The manufacturers and the Hollywood studios are banking on the fact that the superb picture quality and convenience of the system will be enough to create a market for it.
But they have added to the cost with their demands that the manufacturers introduce clever schemes to stop copying and systems to divide the world up into regions to prevent people taking discs into territories where they have not yet been released.
The two European manufacturers - Philips and Thomson - are quietly furious about the delays that have been caused by problems with the Hollywood studios and the internal fights within the DVD alliance.
However, Philips and Thomson have been prepared to put up with the delays because they are convinced that they have a winner.
"The consumer will undoubtedly 'click' to this product - they are used to CDs and they will just see this as video from CDs, something they have been looking for for a long time," said Xavier Weeger of Thomson.
"I think that it really will push out video much faster than some people realise.
"People hate their video tapes. They are proud of their CDs and even put them in special furniture, but they see their videos as rather messy and often hide them away," he added.
Until the re-recordable version of DVD is launched, its appeal might remain limited to the video aficionado, but all the main entertainment companies are betting on it.
A DVD player for the computer - which is expected to rapidly displace the CD-Rom system - is likely to go on sale next year, so there looks like there will be very few places safe from the DVD system in the near future.Reuse content