Sony's DVD strategy

Sony Corp.'s going to war; a war it plans to fight with weapons of mass distinction. By its own admission it was late to the CD-R market, missing out to arch rival Philips, a mistake it's not planning to repeat with DVD.

Not only is it touting the first ‘plus and minus' compatible DVD writer, but media in all shapes, sizes and formats: DVD-Rs, DVD-RWs, DVD+Rs, DVD+RWs; multipacks, jewel cases, video cases - even packs that hang in retail stores.

The new drives, the DRU-500A internal and DRX-500UL external, are impressive enough. Obviously it would be better if there was only one writeable and rewriteable format, and Sony is as much to blame for creating this dual standard as other manufacturers. It would also be better if you could guarantee that recordable discs would be playable in any consumer DVD player, but these are just transitional times we're told.

As to which format is the best, well it depends what you want to do. Beyond this there's little clarification. By Sony's prediction, DVD-R will occupy 50 percent of the market, but it's anyone's game on the rewritable front with DVD+RW making up 15 percent and DVD-RW 10 percent.

It's unlikely that all four formats will survive, and more than likely it will come down to media costs as to which lives or dies. But at least with Sony's drive you won't be left with an expensive paperweight as it reads and writes to all formats.

The internal drive is expected to retail at about £250 and the external box at £375, which is quite a hike for the convenience of not opening up your PC. The external drive offers both Firewire and USB 2.0 connections. Both should be available to buy mid October.

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