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Appeared on: Tuesday, March 26, 2002
CeBIT 2002 Background Info


1. Introduction

Cebit 2002 - The Background Info

Without any doubt, CeBIT 2002 was one of the most major IT shows. Even if the number of the participating companies was less by 150 compared to the last year's show, still many new ideas and information about the future was available. In this article we give a general idea of what we saw in the show and we will also present what's new in the optical storage for this year. Cya next year!

DVD Format - Page 1

The most popular question this year was about the DVD format. Which format will be established? Is it the DVD-R or the DVD+R? What about the DVD-RW or the DVD+RW? What about DVD-RAM? For sure no one really knows the answer. We asked the same question numerous of times, we were asked the same question so many other times but the same answer always came up... "Time will show the final winner".

Without any doubt, the DVD+RW alliance promoted heavily the DVD+RW format what was mentioned in every conversation was that the members of the DVD+RW format are really capable enough to strongly promote their stand. Companies like Compaq, HP and Dell have the power to support a certain format for the PC but the final prices will be an issue for the possible customer.

The DVD+RW alliance was very satisfied when Microsoft decided to natively support it within WinXP and in the future operating systems. Microsoft plans to include DVD recording software inside future OS system, since the DVD market is expected to boom in the next few years.

As it current stands, the new DVD+R/RW drives will cost around 700 Euro, when the Pioneer DVR-A04 will cost "only" 600 Euros. The DVD+R media is expected to cost around 10-12 Euros and the DVD+RW media around 17 Euro.

On the other hand, DVD-R media can be now bough at even less than 4 Euros, and has "proven" the highest compatibility with DVD desktop systems. Pioneer announced further reduction of DVD-R/RW prices down to $6 and $10 respectively for their branded media and shortly re-manufacturers will follow.

The DVD+RW alliance claims that the DVD+R will offer the same or even higher compatibility as the DVD-R media (up to 100%). Could this be true? We will have to wait and see. As it currently stands, the DVD+RW media offer a compatibility of 40-50% (despite the fact that the DVD+RW alliance says around 70%) with desktop DVD players.

Of course the DVD+R/RW drives will be faster in both writing/re-writing speeds (2.4x) instead of 2x DVD-R and 1x DVD-RW of Pioneer DVR-A04. Again we believe that many tests will be needed to prove which format is more compatible with the DVD desktop players.


2. DVD Format - Page 2

CeBIT 2002 - The Background Info

DVD Format - Page 2

The race will continue as soon as Panasonic and Sanyo release their DVD-R drives around June time frame. Both drives are supposed to be Super DVD combo recorders (Panasonic LF-521: 3x writing DVD-R/RAM, 12/10/32 CD-RW and 1x DVD-RW, while the Sanyo DVR-DV1 will support 4x DVD-R, 24/12/40x and later around September, 2x DVD-RW). Other manufacturers are expected to come up with the 4x DVD-R speed (and probably 2x DVD-RW) later in September. There are also some other companies that have decided to support both formats.

In the DVD+RW conference during the CeBIT 2002 show, Sony stated (making other companies freeze!), that will support both DVD-R/DVD+R formats with a new drive, by the end of this year. We may also see some other manufacturers supporting both formats with dual drives, something that the most of the users are expecting. The problem here would be the technical issues of the implementation of both formats and again the price. If Sony's drive can work smoothly with both formats and offer a reasonable price, it will be a very good solution.

Sanyo is another company that will support both formats (DVD-R/DVD+R) but with two separate products. The DVD-R drive is supposed to come this June, while the DVD+RW drive will be available in the end of 2002.

Both Panasonic and Sanyo DVD-R drives will be faster than the DVD+R/RW drives. What happens next?

For sure new series of faster DVD+R/RW drives will come out (up to 4x). So a new writing race for the DVD format starts? Possibly… Of course this will bring users, faster and cheaper DVD recorders.

One advantage that DVD+RW format includes is the defect management system. For now, only the DVD-RAM format supports such an option that will prevent loss of important data. The already known Mt. Rainier will pass eventually to the DVD+RW format, making it stronger compared to the DVD-RW.

The companies that still haven't joined any DVD recording format are waiting for the confusion to clear. We heard some expressions of "...We must be upon the winners not the losers side…" from well known CD-RW manufacturer.


3. DVD Format - Page 3

CeBIT 2002 - The Background Info

DVD Format - Page 3

Of course companies like Panasonic, Toshiba will continue supporting the DVD-RAM format, but it's already known that the DVD-RAM has the worst compatibility among the DVD recording formats with desktop DVD players. Hitachi in the new (and hopefully improved) DVD Camcorder supports both DVD-R/DVD-RAM formats (8cm).

You may don't know but there isn't really any DVD specification for higher than 1x DVD recording format (for DVD-R/RW formats). The increased writing speeds of 4x DVD-R and 2x DVD-RW are now discussed in the DVD Forum and are expected to be finalized until Q3 of 2002.

Another issue is the recordable DVD media. We talked with many DVD-R media manufacturers and so far no one believes that we can have 4x certified DVD-R media by June. They admit that they can manufacture 3x media but the 4x is another story. Mitsui was probably the only manufacturer that promised to support 4x. Pioneer, as a media manufacturer, didn't say anything about 4x DVD-R media, but probably will have something ready by that time.

There were also a lot of taking about the "Blue Ray" technology, which promises even higher capacity with of course different laser diodes and new media. You shouldn't start dreaming of such a system soon at your home, since the most of the companies plan to ship a blue ray drive somewhere around the end of 2003-early 2004. The DVD recording gradually will take its place among the daily use but of course CD writing will also be present.

Toshiba was the only company that presented an alternative to the "Blue Ray" consortium making things even more complicated. So we have a member of DVD Forum (Toshiba) against nine (9) companies that want to promote the "Blue Ray". Even now inside the "Blue Ray" there are three different "formats". We have heard about 23.3GB, 25GB and even 27GB different supported capacities.

Toshiba promises capacities of 30GB with the use of Blue Laser and even up to 110GB with Dual Side/Dual Layer discs. So will this be another confusing issue just like in the DVD format? We hope not. We assume that companies have realized the confusion between users among the DVD recording formats and will try to co-ordinate at only ONE format.

Even if the "Blue Ray" format promises such a high capacities, for now there aren't any thoughts for PC (Data) use. The main propose will be the HDTV applications, which are also promised from time to time. There will be a lot of talk about copy protection (like what happened with DVD format) and this time probably would be higher secured. Also, the cost of the blue laser drives is much higher than the CD and DVD recorders even up to 1000% times. This means that a Blue Laser recorder will cost like 50.000$, when a DVD recorder costs 600$. Different optics, different media, do make the difference.

Multi-Level (ML) recording technology from Calimetrics is also an interesting issue. Without any doubt this technology can shift up the media capacity levels without major differences in changing the lasers and the whole system design. Most of the people we talked about ML, came up with the same conclusion "Multi-Level is a great idea for the DVD format".


4. CD Format - Page 1

CeBIT 2002 - The Background Info

CD Format - Page 1

What about the ML implementation in the CD format? Already "too late" was the answer we heard many times. If the technology was ready like 2 years ago, things would be much different today. Remember that Multi-Level discs are not backward compatible with the normal DVD/CD-ROMs. To write to the 2.3GB discs, you will need new CD-RW and of course ML compatible discs. This format seems to offer increased capacity in a slightly higher cost than the existing CD-R media, but the issue here is again what is always: "Backwards compatibility". You may remember "Double Density" (DD) format from Sony/Philips that could fit up to 1.3GB to a 12cm disc. We do wonder if Sony has sold even one of those drives in public…

In the last year's CeBIT we were assured that ML recorders would be out in September of 2001. It's already March of 2002 and there is no sign of them. Actually we did witness a working unit of TDK's ML recorder (with the PLEXTOR PX-ML3630) with the latest Sanyo's latest IC chipset. So when will a ML (Multi-Level) recorder come from TDK (actual manufacturer Plextor)? Never.

TDK's marketing manager said "…TDK has decided NOT to introduce a CD-based ML writer. We used CeBIT to demonstrate the technology progress we made with ML and we are now 'shifting gears' to implement ML in future optical storage platforms such as DVD or blue laser recording. However, the Sanyo produced chips are now available to other drive vendors for implementation…"

On the recording speed, as it seems the 48x recording speed will be the upper limit as most manufacturers agreed. There is no need for higher recording speeds, since there are already problems with the produced level noise and of course the already known media problems. You should expect to see new 48x (Zone-CLV) drives around May-June from the well-known companies.

There might be a pleasant surprise from Yamaha, the only manufacturer that uses CAV recording technology, for their next generation recorder. As we "heard" there will be either a full CAV or a P-CAV recorder that will be faster than the current and possibly the upcoming 48x recorders.

Yamaha's new generation recorders will support the new "printing" technology, which can print logos, text in the unused space of CDs. Yamaha may have another few new features for their new recorder, but we will have to wait until May to find out.

Other manufacturers are trying to push more the re-writing speed limit, up to 16x. CyberDrive will be the first one that will support such a high re-writing speed with the use of new media. Such speeds are not supported from the HS-RW standard, so we may experience compatibility issues with CD/DVD-ROMs.

The good news is that Philips and other companies are already talking about a new specification that will support up to 32x re-writing speeds, with backwards compatibility. When this standard will be finalized, we may see recorders like 48x/32x/48x available.


5. CD Format - Page 2

CeBIT 2002 - The Background Info

CD Format - Page 2

Another big issue was the Mt. Rainier format. Yamaha was the first ever manufacturer that introduced Mt. Rainier format for the CRW3200 series. Till now Microsoft has not supported the "Mt. Rainier" format within WinXP or other operating system making things a little harder for the end users. There was a lot of talk about which software was Mt. Rainier ready and which drives are/or not Mt. Rainier v1.1 compatible.

Mitsumi and SAI (Software Architects) claimed that the CR-480ATE and the Write CD-RW! Solution is the only close to the Mt. Rainier v1.1 specification. Yamaha's CRW3200 got a "CeBIT 2002 award" for supporting Mt. Rainier and on the other corner was Philips with the "EasyWrite" format. What's really going on?

It seems that even if the Mt. Rainier is listed as a supported feature from various manufacturers; there are still several issues for their drives. The Mt. Rainier format includes new features such as the background formatting, 2k addressing and of course data defect management. The Mt. Rainier compatible drives must be able to "multi-thread" such tasks, transparent to user.

Philips proposed a new way to certificate Mt. Rainier compliant drives with the "Easy Write" logo. The use of special diagnostic software/test discs will make sure that the drives will fully support the Mt. Rainier format. Philips claimed that their upcoming drives will support the "Easy Write" logo, which means a 100% support of the Mt. Rainier format.

The Mt. Rainier seems to be very important for big vendors like Compaq or HP. We may see those companies eliminating the floppy disc usage in near future, and adopting a fully Mt. Rainier compatible drive. For sure, there will be a big fight between manufacturers that supply OEM drives to those companies. LiteOn had some big contracts with Dell. Till now even their 40x recorder doesn't support Mt. Rainier, despite the fact that it was initially announced. Of course not many manufacturers support Mt. Rainier, but eventually most of them (?) will.


6. CD Format - Page 3

CeBIT 2002 - The Background Info

CD Format - Page 3

The notebook users will be very happy from the news that many manufacturers are preparing faster DVD-ROM, DVD/CD-RW and even DVD-R recorders for their portable PC. TEAC and few others presented a new slim-line series of 24x/10x/24x CD-RW drives. Panasonic plans to ship also many new models for the notebook users from combo DVD/CD-RW drives ,with slot-in option, and up to DVD-R/RAM slim-line drives!

Of course there will be more new external portable drives. LG announced an external slim-line drive that supports 24x/10x/24x and 8x (DVD) reading speeds. ASUS has another proposal of 16x/8x/24x and 8x (DVD) with both USB 2.0/FireWire interfaces and maybe an MP3 playback option.

The majority of the external portable recorders will support only the USB2.0 interface. As it seems FireWire gets less support. However FireWire still holds strong in the DV camera area, since FireWire supports Copy protection management, that USB 2.0 doesn't.

The most known optical storage device (CD-ROM) seems that will stop being manufactured and by the middle of next year will stop selling. The DVD slowly but steady overpasses the CD format. Most manufacturers agreed that faster reading speeds than 16x (for DVD) can be achieved but the noise would be higher. Affreey plans to ship a 25x DVD/100x CD-ROM drive, somewhere inside 2002, but so far we do not have an official announcement.


7. CD Format - Page 4

CeBIT 2002 - The Background Info

CD Format - Page 4

Something really interesting was the announcement of a new CD called "flexCD". As the word says, it is about a new ultra slim CD media line with a very flexible structure. Sonopress, a company that manufactures the most of your pressed discs, presented for the first time this new product that will boost the use of CD in every product you are currently buying. For user to read it would be needed a special plastic adaptor, that will be available for free. As Sonopress told us, the first batches of "flexCD" will come out from September/October 2002. Companies that may be interested to use such CDs, would have to make orders of higher than 100.000 pieces. In the future, Sonopress will accept fewer orders for everyone who wishes to use their new technology.

Lastly, we had some talk with Philips about the protected AudioCDs. Their general comments were upon the same line of the official Philips line. That Audio discs that are not compliant with the "CD standards" should not have the "Compact Disc" logo. Philips does plan to inform the various CD protection makers about this issue, but as they told us they do not plan to take any legal actions.

"The issue is not that user cannot copy the protected AudioCD at his PC, but the fact that most users cannot playback those CDs in their high-end systems or at their car. Users complain about this and they believe it's a fault of the hardware (CD player), while the problem lye upon the inserted CD" commented one of the Philips spokesman. Let's hope that in the future Audio discs will compliant to the official CD standards to have less in-compatibility problems.


8. Software

CeBIT 2002 - The Background Info

Software

New software came up during the CeBIT 2002 show. Ahead (makers of Nero), presented two new software named "Nero Vision Express" and "Nero Express". The first one is actually an authoring software for VCD/SVCD/DVD formats pretty simple, that plans to compete Sonic's MyDVD and NeoDVD, bulked with many DVD+RW retail kits.

We had the chance to see an early beta version of it during the CeBIT show and it looked very promising. We will have to wait and see how the final version will perform.

Nero Express is another new "toy" mainly focused for OEM use. The idea is to make the software as much simpler as it can be, without loosing the important features of Nero.

On the other side, Roxio was supposed to present their new DVD recording suite with the codename "Hitchok". However this product never appeared in the CeBIT show, since we he "heard" some bugs came up just before shipping. Let's hope that the final product would be more stable.

Since Roxio has bought MGI, in their booth you could find the new VideoWave 5 and other MGI software. Also as we heard, WinOnCD will continue developing since Roxio feels that WinOnCD has a strong base, at least in Europe. Lastly, VideoPack 5.0 was also demonstrated, (hopefully soon we will have a review for it).

Vob was another software vendor that showed a new version of InstantCD/DVD up to v6.4. This new version didn't support any major new features ,apart from a Virtual CD-ROM emulator called InstantDrive and several other features. Vob plans to add DVD authoring suite till summer and as we heard, plans also to introduce a new version of their "ProtectCD" anti-piracy solution. They did mention that CloneCD wouldn't be able to "backup" the new protection builds, but we will have to see about this when the first protected titles come up.

BHA's booth was small enough but had a few surprises. BHA's GOLD v5.0 is planned to ship soon with many new features and another DVD authoring solution with the name "Bs DVD" will also follow.

Lastly, we had the chance to test a beta version of the most famous CD software replicator with the name "CloneCD". Talking with Olli and the rest of the CloneCD team was very interesting and we enjoyed a lot. Apart from the new v4.x version, Olli plans to introduce completely new software for "CD-Mastering" use. This could be the end of traditional CDR software (Nero, Ez CD Creator)? Not really.

Olli plans to have limited mastering features (for example no support of CD-Text), and wants to give his software the "intelligence" to take decisions for you. Of course there are more interesting plans for the future (about DVD), but we promised not to publicize them :-)



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