Nero all-in-one authoring updated

Ahead Software is unveiling at Nero 6.0 Ultra Edition, a suite of updated CD and DVD recording tools that includes such features as a video editor, a full backup program, and a software DVD player.

The package, announced at CeBIT America here this week, is scheduled for release July 18.

Ahead designed the new package as a one-stop shop for optical disc recording, says Udo Eberlein, Ahead's president. Unlike some companies that buy up other software makers to incorporate the features of existing products into theirs, Ahead creates its own programs--a more effective approach than adding tools piecemeal, he says. "All of the encoders were done in-house--that's a big deal."

Nero 6.0 will be available both online and in stores. The retail version will cost US$99, the downloadable version $70, and an upgrade version for owners of 5.0 and later versions will cost $50. Eberlein expects many drive vendors to ship trimmed-down versions of Nero with their products, too.

New Authoring, Editing Tools

Ahead designed Nero 6 to be easy to run by either a novice or an experienced user, Eberlein says. The product's StartSmart application helps make it easy to access the program's numerous tools, and the Nero Express interface makes it easy to operate them.

Chief among the new tools is NeroVision Express 2, an authoring tool for video CD, super-video CD, and DVD. It offers easy-to-use video editing features, Eberlein says.

Another new feature, built by Ahead engineers, is Nero ShowTime--a DVD player that lets you view your own creations as well as standard DVDs. "You no longer need a separate player like Intervideo's WinDVD," he says.

Ahead also moves into backup software by including the new Nero BackItUp. The program offers full, incremental, update, and differential control of data backup, he says. Plus, you can use it to span your backups onto multiple CDs or DVDs.

Other major features include InCD 4, which lets you drag and drop and save files within an application, and Wave Editor 2.0 and Nero Soundtrax, used for multitrack audio editing. Of course, the package includes Nero Burning ROM 6, which handles burning of CDs and DVDs.

Ahead has also created its own standard for audio/video compression, called Nero Digital.

Limited MP3 Encoding

While Nero 6 supports a wide range of audio and video encoding standards, it's notable that out of the box the software provides the capability to rip and encode only 30 CD album tracks into MP3s. After that, users must purchase a $15 plug-in through Ahead's Web site to encode additional MP3s.

Ahead's decision to limit the number of MP3 encodings to 30 is sure to irritate some users, but company executives say they expect MP3 encoding to be used less frequently in the future. They consider it inferior in quality to other audio encoding standards.

"MP3 is not the future," Eberlein says. Newer, better formats such as Advanced Audio Coding will soon overtake MP3's popularity, he says. Nero 6 supports unlimited ACC encoding.

Besides, providing unlimited MP3 encoding would drive up the price of the package, says John Tafoya, Ahead vice president of business development. "The burden to include MP3 is too high," he says, referring to licensing fees companies must pay to include MP3 encoding.

Tafoya notes that often when software makers offer unlimited MP3 encoding, it is because the company has a less expensive MP3 licensing deal. "Musicmatch has a good relationship with the MP3 guys. If we had the same relationship, we could add that," he says.

Eberlein is confident the MP3 limit won't bother Nero 6 buyers.

"We have all of this other stuff (competing products) don't have," he says. He says that buying separate software packages to match Nero 6's features would cost more than $200.

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