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DVD Prototypes Take Center Stage At WCES


The formal ratification of unified DVD format specs late last year has pushed the emerging multimedia category into the forefront of the Winter CES. Although WCES was expected to serve as a DVD launching pad for several of the major technology contributors and marketing powers -- including Toshiba, Sony, Philips and Thomson -- most other manufacturers had been hesitant about showing prototypes now, fearing "vaporware tags" if a prolonged standards debate put off shipping dates until next year. But now, with the formal agreements in place, a number of additional companies will have units at the show.


Toshiba, one of the pioneers of the format from the former Super Density Disc camp, was scheduled to unveil two players on the eve of WCES. Toshiba models will include the XV-1006A and step-up XV-3006A. Pricing has not been determined, but the high-end model will have a fluorescent display, universal remote and true composite video outputs. The XV-1006A will offer an LED readout and universal remote.


Pioneer, which is best known for championing another optical disc system -- laserdisc -- is showing what it expects to be the industry's first DVD/LD/CD "combination player." The company calls the high-end unit a "reference standard player," designed for the videophile who has already amassed a collection of LD titles and now wants the best of both worlds, according to Matt Dever, home electronics marketing manager. Pioneer also intends to market LD and DVD-specific players next year.


Both developers of the former Multi Media CD camp -- Sony and Philips -- were also promising peeks this week at players they plan to bring to market in late 1996 or early '97. And Thomson has long insisted it would have a $500 player on the market this fall, and it is holding to that prediction with a formal prototype display and announcement this week of its selection of a Japanese OEM. More surprising was word that Samsung too will show a prototype player, that LG Electronics was pondering demonstration, and that Matsushita was dropping heavy hints about a "new product that takes shiny discs." Onkyo is also said to be planning to demonstrate a DVD unit this week.


For a quick look at a number of manufacturers' players in one location, Dolby Labs was planning to collect a number of manufacturers' prototype machines at its N202 booth for a full audio/visual surround sound experience. Among other things, the specs call for Dolby's AC-3 Surround Sound technology. The Samsung unit, which was originally designed using the former MMCD specs, will probably ship "in the time frame of many of the others," according to Mark Knox, Samsung national marketing manager. Pioneer will enter the DVD category in 1996 with a DVD/LD/CD "compatible" player, billed as a transition piece between optical disc technologies. Toshiba's XV-3006A is the step-up unit in a two-model DVD line planned to launch around Labor Day. Samsung is gearing up to enter the DVD field and will show this prototype MMCD player at Winter CES. Philips may not have a DVD player until late in the year, or early 1997, but it plans to be in both the DVD movie player (pictured here in the MMCD format) and DVD-ROM fields. Samsung is gearing up to enter the DVD field and will show this prototype at Winter CES.Philips may not have a DVD player until late in the year or early 1997, but it plans to be in both the DVD movie player (pictured here in the MMCD format) and DVD-ROM fields.Toshiba's SD-3006, at $699, is the step-up unit in a two-model DVD line planned for fall.