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Rewritable DVDs: Enervated in battle of standards

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CIOL Bureau
New Update

Standards, one thing consumers of electronic equipment and communication, and

computing devices, always cry for. And it is also something that various players

in the industry fail to arrive at many times, often resulting in the premature

death of some promising technologies. The latest victim is the rewritable

Digital Versatile Disk (DVD), which has the potential of taking video recording

to the masses.

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To some extent, the story of the evolution of DVD technology is akin to that

of the Compact Disk. CD playing drives were followed by writable CDs (CD-R) and

then by rewritable CDs (CD-RW), which helped boost PC sales last year.

Currently, there are three rewritable standards for DVD recordable drives and

consumer electronic equipment that are incompatible to each other.

DVD-RAM is best suited for data storage as most of the latest DVD players do

not support this standard. DVD-RW, however, is mostly suited for recording

movies. It is compatible with latest consumer DVD players. Finally, DVD+RW

standard records and erases both data and movies. Most of the latest DVD players

support this standard.

The trouble is DVD Forum (www.dvdforum.org),

a five-year-old organization that was created to keep the industry united on the

evolution of a common standard, does not approve of DVD+RW, which seems to be

emerging as a strong contender. To make matters worse, many of the founding

members of DVD Forum have formed another outfit called DVD+RW Alliance (www.dvdrw.org)

to promote this standard. Names such as Sony, Philips and Thomson can be found

to be promoters of both rival groups.

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Hewlett Packard was the first to release DVD+RW drive in September and it has

the support of the likes of Dell, Sony and Mitsubishi. Apple and Compaq are

supporting the competing standard — DVD-RW. The result - rewritable DVD

market, which holds a lot of promise in boosting PC sales, is suffering.

Competing standards keep prices high and confuse consumers.

According to a DVD Forum spokesperson, the organization is flexible on the

standards and the members are free to pursue their own versions. "We

believe that the market will decide which formats are most desirable," the

spokesperson said. DVD Forum clarifies that DVD-RW and DVD-RAM are not

conflicting standards. "DVD-RW is better suited for sequential recording

such as Audio-Video data, but is not as reliable as DVD-RAM in the defect

management and recording cycles. DVD-RAM has high reliability for over 100,000

recording cycles. (DVD-RW's limit is about 1,000 cycles.) However, DVD Forum has

developed "DVD Multi" specifications for better compatibility and

improved user convenience," explained the spokesperson.

Earlier this week, Hitachi surprised everyone announcing that it would

release a drive that would support both DVD-RW and DVD-RAM. This means that a

disk on which data, voice or movie is stored using DVD-R (record once), DVD-RW

or DVD-RAM, can be used on any DVD player or drive (except that supports DVD+RW).

The drives are expected in the market early next year. Its success could come as

a bad news for DVD+RW supporters.

The feud also takes some of the attention away from the required advancement

in DVD rewritable technology. So long the prices remain prohibitive, DVD

rewritables could only catch the attention of video recording customers and not

data storage market. Customers, who have so far been used to fast copying on

CDs, would find the copying speeds on DVDs much slower.

We cannot expect DVD rewritables to imitate the mass appeal of CD-RW. The

advent of MP3 has pushed the popularity of rewritable CDs. However, a cost

efficient, cross compatible standard can do wonders. DVD rewritable drives and

recorders can push the digital camera and camcorder markets too. It is now the

big players who have to make sure that this wonderful technology does not

suffer.

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