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Thursday, June 29, 2000
DVD Scene Is Set for Confusion

"...By year's end, consumers will be able to record their own DVDs at home - reaping the benefits of vastly more capacity and improved quality in digital images, sounds and video. Yet, typically, manufacturers have been unable to unite on a singe standard for discs and players, which could cause considerable head-scratching this holiday shopping season. This week's PC Expo trade show was a battleground for competing groups of electronics manufacturers.

Hitachi, Toshiba and Panasonic said they would ship stand-alone recorders in a few months that use DVD-RAM. Such drives have been available for computers since early 1999, but the group is now trying to move it into the consumer electronics arena. By the end of the year, the recorders will cost $500 to $600. By contrast, regular DVD players are expected to cost $100 by Thanksgiving time, Edwards said. The DVD-RAM standard has large manufacturers and software developers behind it and the advantage of being first to market. However, the discs produced by a DVD-RAM recorder can't be played in the DVD players that have been sold so far. They require "RAM-capable" DVD players, which a Hitachi spokesman promised would be on sale shortly.

DVD+RW, a format backed by Hewlett-Packard, Ricoh, Philips and Yamaha, doesn't have the same problem. The discs can be played in existing DVD players. But there's a drawback: the stand-alone recorders are likely to be a bit more expensive, and the computer drives won't be out until next year. Philips is bringing out a stand-alone recorder by the end of the year for about $1,000.

For a third alternative, there's DVD-RW, derisively called "DVD minus RW" by DVD+RW backers. DVD-RW was created by Pioneer. The recorders are already on sale in Japan, and Pioneer hopes to start selling them in the United States by the fourth quarter. Pioneer executives said the first recorders would be geared towards home theater enthusiasts and would cost about $3,000. The DVD-RW discs will be playable in Pioneer DVD players and some players from other manufacturers. The recorders will also be able to use write-once DVDs, which could be played on any DVD player.

The most acrimonious fight seems to be brewing between the DVD Forum supporters and the DVD+RW manufacturers..."

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