Sony, HP push rewritable DVD format

Sony and Hewlett-Packard, in a bid to set a standard for rewritable storage systems, have announced they will begin selling the world's first DVD+RW (digital versatile disk + rewritable) drives as early as next month in the US.

The companies will ship DVD+RW 3GB internal drives for between $US600 and $US700 later this year, Sony and HP spokesmen said here today. HP will make its drive available to some customers starting in June, while the Sony product will be on shelves in the US a few months later, they said. Sony will decide whether or not to sell the drives worldwide after looking at sales figures in the US, according to a company spokesman.

The rollout of the first DVD+RW drives is the latest move in a battle over rewritable storage that some observers say will replace video tape and be used as high-capacity storage systems for PCs. The product is positioned against the DVD-RAM (random access memory) drives being sold by Matsushita Electric Industrial Co and others, including Toshiba and Hitachi.

Sony will build the drives and both the Japanese vendor and HP will sell them under their separate brand names. The two vendors initially expect production to be 10,000 to 20,000 drives per month, according to representatives at the companies.

In addition to functioning as backup drives for high-end PCs, DVD+RW drives can read most digital disk formats, from DVD-ROMs (read-only memories) to audio CDs, with a few modifications, according to a representative at Sony. The drives will not, however, read DVD-RAM disks.

Depending on the design of the drive, DVD-RAM drives can also read different formats, according to a spokesman at Toshiba. Compared to DVD+RW disks, DVD-RAM disks have a slightly lower storage capacity at 2.6GB per side, though a Toshiba spokesman said that his company would ship a 4.7GB DVD-RAM drive in the US, toward the end of this year.

A key distinction between the formats for end-users may be the maturity of the technologies. While DVD+RW drives are new to the market, vendors been selling DVD-RAM drives since late last year, the Toshiba spokesman said.

DVD+RW's backers, in addition to HP and Sony, include Philips, Ricoh, Mitsubishi and Yamaha.

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