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Pioneer Shares DVD, DVD-RW, Plasma Plans

12/18/2000 02:00:00 AM Eastern

NEW YORK -Pioneer raised its forecast for worldwide DVD sales in calendar 2000 to 17 million from its original 11 million forecast and said it expects a quick drop in DVD-RW hardware prices to less than $1,000 in early 2002 in the United States.

The projections were announced here at a press conference led by Pioneer Electronics president Kaneo Ito, Pioneer Electronics North America president Kaz Yamamoto and Pioneer New Media Technologies president Paul Dempsey.

Pioneer's revised DVD sales forecast shows an approximate 143 percent increase in worldwide DVD sales in 2000 from 1999's 7 million. In 2001, Pioneer expects sales to climb another 53 percent to 26 million, Ito said.

Pioneer's share of that market, he said, is running at 15 percent in units and 20 percent in dollars in calendar 2000.

The 2000 forecast doesn't include sales of Pioneer's first U.S.-market DVD-RW recorder because the company has delayed a North American and European introduction until late in the first quarter.

Ito cited a need to complete copy-protection design work. A spokesman later cited Matsushita's delay in distributing CPRM (content protection for recordable media) technology, which is not used in Pioneer's currently available Japan-market recorders.

A CPRM flag is part of a prerecorded DVD's physical watermark. The flag carries copying instructions to a DVD recorder, such as allowing unlimited copying, restricting copies to only one, or preventing any copies.

Pioneer's first U.S.-market DVD-RW recorder is expected to be priced at $2,500. Ito said Pioneer's DVD-RW hardware pricing will drop rapidly after that due to a digital-technology alliance formed earlier this year by Pioneer and Sharp.

By the end of 2001, the alliance is expected to yield a Japan-market home DVD-RW recorder at 100,000 yen ($900 at the 111-yen exchange rate). The $900 recorder will be available in the United States in the beginning of 2002, Ito said.

DVD-R discs will initially cost $10-$15, with DVD-RW discs at $20-$25, but the price will "come down significantly very quickly" as quantities build, he said, because the manufacturing process is similar to CD and DVD manufacturing.

Although confident that the DVD-RW format will become "the de facto standard in DVD recorders," Ito nonetheless wouldn't rule out adoption of the three-format DVD Multi recorders, which would record onto incompatible DVD-RW, DVD+RW, and DVD-RAM discs.

"In theory," he said, Pioneer would prefer to avoid a Beta-VHS format battle, but the company is "not sure" it would be a good idea to build such a player because a three-format recorder might boost prices too much. Nonetheless, "all doors are open," he said.

As for a Pioneer-brand DVD-RW camcorder, Dempsey said it "seems to be a logical extension" of the format but it's not currently in the company's "road map" because of other priorities.

Pioneer, however, is on target for first-quarter availability to consumers of its ATAPI half-height DVR-103 DVD-R recording drive for PCs, which was shown at Comdex. It will be available at a suggested retail of around $1,000 from PC makers and from aftermarket sources. It will burn DVD-R, CD-R and CD-RW discs, as well as read DVD-ROM and CD-ROM discs.

The company said its DVD-ROM business has been profitable since the end of the past fiscal year (ending March). Worldwide production is estimated at 30 million units in calendar 2000, and Pioneer production will account for about one-sixth of that. In 2001, industrywide sales will jump to 50 million and in 2002 to 70 million.