Alliance talks up DVD+RW/+R products, standards

The DVD+RW Alliance displayed a united front Thursday promoting its standards for DVD+RW (DVD+rewritable) for PCs and video recorders. The group also announced DVD+RW/+R (+recordable) products from some of its members, including Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP), Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV, Sony Corp. and Ricoh Co. Ltd.

"Our commitment is to delivering standards that are easy to use, such as DVD+RW/+R. DVD+R represents the next evolutionary step in the DVD+RW format as the best choice for video and data storage," said John Spofford, vice president and general manager for HP's consumer entertainment solution division and chairman of the DVD+RW Alliance.

The DVD+RW/+R combination drives allow consumers to create custom CDs and DVDs while using one drive. The DVD+RW/+R format also begins to address the serious issue of storage with new technologies such as optical-disc authoring software that allows for editing directly on DVD+RW discs, bypassing the PC's hard drive, Spofford said.

DVD+RW, a standard for recording data and video on optical discs, is also backed by a variety of vendors like Dell Computer Corp. and Thomson Multimedia SA, but faces competition from another format, the DVD-RW standard, which is being pushed by the DVD Forum, including Pioneer Corp. and other companies. The DVD Forum has published its own standard specification for DVD and rewritable formats such as DVD-RW. DVD+RW is a competing system, and not an official DVD Forum format.

Frank Simonis, commercial director at Philips' optical-storage division, acknowledged the competition between the standards but rejected the idea that one overarching standard could be created by blending the existing standards. "As for today, two standards do exist, but to merge them would create a third standard and won't have consumer benefits. We do not believe that there is a format war going on. Any confusion on the user end is very limited, we believe," Simonis said.

According to Simonis, by the end of the year, there will be 160 million playback devices on the market, the "majority" of which will be compatible with DVD+RW.

Spofford also announced that the final Mount Rainier specification for rewritable DVD drives is available for incorporation into DVD+RW/+R drives and in PC operating systems. The specification -- which has received approval by the Mount Rainier Group, led by Philips, Sony, Compaq Computers Corp. and Microsoft Corp. -- is intended to make using rewritable optical discs more like using floppy disks, by adding additional data storage support, Spofford said.

"DVD+RW will revitalize the PC industry. From here we will remain a united alliance promoting DVD+RW and DVD+RW/+R as the easiest, most powerful solution for consumers," Spofford said.

Alliance members laid out various plans for releasing DVD+RW/+R products with the ability to store up to 4.7G bytes:

-- HP will ship its HP DVD Writer 200i internal drive in May with a price point of AUD$1499. Its external version, the HP DVD Writer dvd200e will begin shipping in May with a price point of AUD$1599, said Christine Roby, HP's product manager for DVD writers.

HP had earlier announced here that in Europe DVD200i will be available for €649 ($568) and the DVD200e for €749. Both have the same release dates as in the U.S. The DVD+RW/+R combination drives will also come with DVD authoring software for editing directly on DVD+RW discs, Roby said.

-- Philips will ship its combination DVD+RW/+R PC drive, the DVDRW228, in Europe and the U.S. in April, according to Philips spokeswoman Jeannet Harpe. Pricing in Europe will be €699, and the price in the U.S. will be similar, said Harpe.

Philips will also be shipping its "living room DVD+RW/+R recorders" -- the DVDR980 for €1,299, and the DVDR985 for €1,399 --around the same time, Harpe said.

Fujitsu Siemens Computers BV has begun including DVD+RW drives from Philips into its entire line of Scaleo computers, said Marcus Jacob, Fujitsu Siemens' product marketing manager for consumer PCs. "Our computers will be equipped from now on with DVD+RW drives. We pick Philips in part because of our long relationship and because it gives us better compatibility than other solutions now available. DVD+RW is probably the solution for the next couple of months," Jacob said.

-- Sony will ship its second-generation, 4.7G-byte DVD+RW/+R drives, which can write on DVD+RW, DVD+R, CD-RW and CD-R media and includes bundled software, said Clemens Schuette, Sony's senior manager for marketing communications.

The Sony DRU-120A internal ATAPI (ATA Packet Interface) drive will be shipped in May at an estimated price of $499 in the U.S. and €549 in Europe. The Sony DRX-120L is the external version and will be available in June for $599 and €699, though the price could go as low as €649 by the time the product actually ships, Schuette said. The external drive will have an i.LINK (IEEE1394) connection, Schuette said.

Most of Sony's products come from Ricoh, though Sony is currently working on its own DVD+RW product, which it expects to come out during its 2002 fiscal year, said Hironobu Harima, Sony's product manager for DVD writers.

-- Ricoh will ship the MP5125A, its internal DVD+RW/+R combination drive in the third quarter for an estimated price of €650, a spokesman said.

-- Verbatim Corp. this month began shipping its DataLine Plus DVD+R disk for between €12 to €15 depending on the market, said Verbatim spokeswoman Emma Soames. "What we are really waiting for is the hardware products to ship. That's what we need in order for this to take off," Soames said.

More information on the Mount Rainier specification can be found online at http://www.mt-rainier.org/, and for more information on the DVD+RW Alliance, go to http://www.dvdrw.com/.

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Laura Rohde

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