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Monday, November 03, 2003
Taiwanese DVD drive makers look beyond 8x burning

Taiwan’s suppliers of DVD drives could have the opportunity of repeating the past performance of CD-RW era by overtaking international competitors in 2004 in high-speed models as most of them have shifted focus to the development 12x and 16x drives.

DVD drives made in Taiwan formally enter the 8x phase in the final quarter of 2003, although manufacturers’ supply volumes still lag those of Japanese competitors.

After successively rolling out their 8x DVD+RW models in September and October, leading companies BenQ, Lite-On IT, and Quanta Storage immediately followed with 8x DVD-dual drives. The products are presently shipped mainly to small- and medium-sized vendors in North America and Europe.

Taiwan manufacturers still trail Japanese companies by one to two months. But the gap is already much narrower than the one to two quarters when they started delivering 4x models.

These companies, as well as Behavior Tech Computer (BTC) and Accesstek, now keep just one R&D team to develop and fine-tune their 4x and 8x products. The majority of staffers are assigned to speed up the development of 12x and 16x drives.

Taiwan suppliers were forced to play the catch-up game in the shipment of 8x drives mainly because the designations of specifications were still controlled by leading European and Japanese optical drive manufacturers, which instantaneously started mass production after completing the setting of specifications.

Although Taiwan’s chipmaker MediaTek has recently started delivering chipsets for 8x DVD drives, it still lags behind multinational suppliers like Philips, NEC, and Sanyo.

However, DVD drive makers in Taiwan stressed that they and MediaTek have all transferred focus to 12x and 16x models in order to make a big leap past competitors in other countries. Most of them think DVD drives, just as shown in CD-RW drives, will have 16-speed as the ultimate model.

In spite of the fact that some key components are still controlled by Japanese companies, Taiwan suppliers have gained a stronger competitive position after accumulating much experiences in the manufacture of CD-RW drives plus more than one year making DVD drives. This will help shorten the lead-time for mass delivery.

They believe the gradual release of production capacity by Japanese companies will also help improve the chance of achieving explosive growth for Taiwan suppliers of DVD drives in 2004.

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