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Tuesday, November 05, 2002
Recordable DVDs to replace floppies

Philips Semiconductors is busy creating chips that will be used in recording and playback devices and are made to work on re-writeable discs. DVD disks that can have data and video recorded onto them will replace floppy disks, an official at Philips Semiconductors (Taiwan) said last week. And Taiwan will play a leading role in providing the hardware that will be needed to play and record the disks.

"DVD+RW [plus re-writeable] will replace floppy disks over time," said Bas Fransen, general manager of the Asia-Pacific computing market at Philips Semiconductors. "This will have a massive impact not only on the global industry, but also on Taiwan."

Philips Semiconductors makes the chips that are used in the construction of computer drives and consumer DVD players that can write to DVD+RW DVD disks.

Philips will launch a new chip today that will enable recording at twice the speed of its existing products, and 32-times faster than existing recordable CD computer drives.

"Now you can burn a video or data disk in less than 15 minutes. With our new eight-speed product, you can burn a disk in less than seven minutes," Fransen said.

DVD+RW will also replace videotape. A drawback of current DVD players is that they can't record. DVD+RW will change that. A DVD+RW disk is able to store two hours of high-quality video.

To make DVD disks as user-friendly as floppy disks and videotape, Philips has included design features that allow users to handle the disks more frequently. The new DVD+RW chip incorporates fingerprint correction technology, which is able to read the data on a disk no matter how many times it has been handled. Previously, disks with fingerprints on them can skip or even fail.

Philips' chips also have the ability to read data even when there are scratches on the disk's surface.

"We can eliminate scratches of up to 3mm and we will increase this size over time," Fransen said.

However, confusion surrounds the recording technology for DVD disks. There are three competing standards: DVD+RW, DVD-RW (minus re-writeable), and DVD-RAM. DVD+RW has the widest support in the industry.

Other supporters of DVD+RW are Hewlett-Packard Co, Dell Computer Corp, Sony Corp, Yamaha Corp, Ricoh Co, Mitsubishi Corp and Thomson Multimedia, which makes the RCA brand. DVD-RW is supported by Pioneer Corp and Apple Computer Inc.

DVD-RW is a evolution of the DVD standard, in the same way CD-RW evolved from CD. The other two recordable DVD formats use new technologies.

Some have compared the position of DVD-RW and DVD+RW to that of Betamax which competed with VHS for videotape supremacy in the 1980s.

DVD-RAM disks are less widely accepted, but can be rewritten up to 100 times more often than DVD+RW. DVD-RAM disks can only be read by the very latest computer drives and can not be read by most DVD players, unlike DVD+RW disks.

DVD-RAM is supported by Matsushita Electric Industrial Co, Sanyo Electric Co and Toshiba Corp.

It is unlikely that one dominant standard will emerge soon.

Global research company International Data Corp (IDC) predicts that the annual shipments of DVD recorders will grow from less than 5 million this year to over 50 million units in 2006.

"DVD recorders are set to ramp up even faster than players," IDC's report says.

Few local manufacturers have started producing recordable DVD drives. AOpen Inc and CMC Magnetics Corp are two exceptions. AOpen predicted it would sell 10,000 to 20,000 units by the end of the year, according to local Chinese-language media reports.

Taiwan already dominates world markets in producing recordable CD technology. Local manufacturers sold 9.3 million CD-RW drives last year, according to the government-funded Market Intelligence Center. This figure is likely to more than triple to 28.5 million this year, which means that one in every two CD-RW drives sold worldwide will be made in Taiwan.

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