Sony will start shipping the newest version of its DVDirect external DVD burner later this month.
The DVDirect VRD-MC1 features several improvements over the currently available VRD-VC20. This includes flash-memory slots enabling the unit to burn digital images directly to DVD, a 2-inch LCD for viewing thumbnail images and software that assembles the photos into a slideshow. Sony also simplified the device's operation by reducing the number of function buttons to three from nine and enabling the unit to automatically sense and configure itself to match the device that is attached.
The other two changes are two additional recording modes for a total of five, and it can connect to and print digital images directly through a PictBridge enabled printer, said Robert DeMoulin, Sony's marketing manager.
The unit will ship in late December with a sub-$300 price tag. The original model will remain on the market, DeMoulin said.
DeMoulin said that despite the inclusion of DVD burners in most new PCs, the market is strong for DVDirect. A Sony research project that spoke to 1,000 DVDirect buyers found that the average owner is 35 years or older, with many over 45. DeMoulin said that while these consumers do own PCs, they are not interested in learning how to download and burn video with a PC, but instead prefer a direct, PC-free method.
Sony also discovered that some people were using the original device for burning programs stored on DVRs, a function that Sony had not considered, but the newer model is configured with side-mounted A/V connections to make it easier to use in this mode.