Alliance shows DVD+RW technology, blasts rivals

Touting DVD+RW's backward compatibility, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Thomson Multimedia, Mitsubishi Chemical, Sony, Yamaha, Ricoh, and Koninklijke Philips Electronics took centre stage in the DVD arena at the CeBIT tradeshow in Hanover.

In live demonstrations the companies showed recording of video from a camcorder on a DVD recorder and the adding of a video clip to a DVD using a CD+RW drive from HP in a PC. Both discs were then played back on regular DVD players, using the DVD chapter index facility to skip to the desired parts of the video.

Philips Optical Storage chief executive officer Hein van der Zeeuw took a swipe at DVD-RAM, the competing format supported by Japan's Hitachi, Toshiba, and Matsushita Electric Industrial. All companies have devices on the market. DVD-RAM packs the CDs in a cartridge, and as such does not allow playback in existing DVD players or drives.

"Compatibility with the installed base of DVD-ROM and DVD players is a compelling reason for embracing the DVD+RW format," he said.

Another competing format, supported by the DVD Forum -- the industry alliance working on the format -- is DVD-RW. Originally developed by Pioneer, the DVD-RW format is compatible with DVD players and drives already on the market. DVD+RW backers, however, say it is technically inferior.

"DVD-RW was designed for one-shot writing to test the quality of Hollywood movies before copies were mass-produced," said Toru Takeda, general manager strategic technology at Sony's core technology and network division. "Pioneer then decided to borrow it for consumer video recorders and PCs."

Takeda said Sony would offer DVD-RW and DVD+RW recording on its video recorder due out later this year. The company's PC drives will only record in DVD+RW, as that format was "especially designed for PCs."

"DVD-RW is less accurate, it does not offer a defect management system," said David Burks, product development manager at HP, adding that HP will have a DVD+RW drive on the market in Europe and the US mid-2001 at a price "below $US1000."

Philips also blasted DVD-RW.

"DVD-RW was made for linear video recording and doesn't offer a variable bit rate," said Hans Driessen, spokesman for Philips Components. The Dutch company's drives will be out in the second half of the year and priced at or under $US1000.

What technology will prevail is up to the consumer, the manufacturers said.

"The consumer has to decide, whatever they buy en masse will win," said Philip's spokesman Driessen.