Tokyo - Panasonic put the world on notice here that it intends to make its DVD-RAM recording format 'the de facto DVD recording standard.'
Company executives invited select members of the press from around the world to a Japanese press conference, where five DVD-RAM-based recorders were introduced to the domestic market.
Additionally, Panasonic announced a new worldwide trademark for its DVD-RAM recording products - 'DIGA.' The name was explained to be a combination of the words 'DVD' and 'gigabyte' to express the format's sanctioning by the DVD-forum and the multiple gigabyte recording capacity of each disc.
Two of the five domestic DVD-RAM models were tagged as 'world models,' including the DMR-E50, which was previously introduced at January's CES, and is planned for a March release at a $599.95 suggested retail price.
The second 'world' deck, model DMR-E60, is expected to be available in the U.S. by June and will add an IEEE-1394 DV input and two flash memory card slots - one for SD cards and the other for standard PC Cards, enabling the use of adapters for multiple flash memory formats.
Other Japanese models include the DMR-E70 combination DVD-RAM recorder and VHS VCR, and a pair of combination DVD-RAM/hard disc recorders - the DMR-E80H and the DMR-E90H. The latter includes a 120GB Maxtor hard disc drive.
Although U.S. introduction plans for the other models were not announced, company executives affirmed that similarly configured models could eventual appear in the line.
None of the announced decks added an electronic program guide (EPG), although company executives told TWICE that an EPG is a logical enhancement and that EPG-enabled models are in development.
Repeatedly on the trip, Panasonic executives stressed the advantages of their DVD-RAM format over rival DVD-RW and DVD+RW formats. DVD-RAM, they said, would enable truly non-linear editing, enabling users to move scene sequences freely about from point to point on a disc - an attribute that is not as easily performed with other formats, they said.
Additionally, the format enables Panasonic to use its exclusive 'Time Slip' function, which enables viewers to pause and rewind live television programs during recording, and/or engage a chasing playback feature that enables users to view a recording from the beginning while the live program continues to record.
The function enables DVD-RAM recorders to operate like hard drive PVRs, with the added benefit of a removable disc storage system. Users can save recordings on disc indefinitely, while enabling virtually unlimited storage capacity.
In response to the incompatibility issues with legacy DVD players often cited by rivals, Panasonic executives pointed out that its decks also record on write-once DVD-R media, which is both less expensive than DVD-RAM and almost universally compatible with DVD players. Additionally, Panasonic's entire 2003 DVD line is compatible with both DVD-R and DVD-RAM discs.
Executives in Japan said they intend to have DVD-RAM recorders eventually replace the analog VHS VCRs they helped to establish as the de facto analog video recording standard years earlier.
In Japan, Panasonic is the top brand for DVD recorders, and targets a 50 percent worldwide market share position by the 2004-2005 time frame, said Fumio Ohtsubo, president of Panasonic AVC Networks Co.
'The higher intrinsic value of the DVD-RAM format video records has been proven already here in Japan, which is the world's most competitive DVD recorder market. As we introduce more DVD-RAM recorder models to meet the diverse needs of consumers, we aim to capture the same level of market share in the global DVD recorder market, which we expect will reach 22 million units in 2005,' Ohtsubo said.
Shunzo Ushimaru, Matsushita corporate marketing director for the Panasonic brand, said the company projects sales of 3 million DVD-RAM units in Japan next year, surpassing sales of VCRs for the first time.
The company will increase production of DVD-RAM recorders to 150,000 units from the 80,000 by the end of March 2004, expanding to 300,000 per month. Panansonic plans to produce 1 million units per month by the end of March 2006.
Currently, Panasonic produces its DVD-RAM recorders at its factory in Osaka, which has shifted to the 'cell production' manufacturing process from conventional assembly line techniques.
To help meet its production goal, the company said it would add DVD-RAM production facilities overseas beginning this summer in Germany.