Dual Layer DVD Drives To Spur Category

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New York - With DVD burners selling almost at commodity price levels, several manufacturers hope to reinvigorate the category by introducing dual-layer drives and blank media, the first of which will hit stores next month.

DVD+RW Alliance members Hewlett-Packard, Philips and Sony announced plans at the International CES in January to roll out dual-layer drives during the year. These Plus R formatted drives will burn to newly developed blank media that has two layers of recordable substrate that can hold 8.5GB of data, or double the current capacity.

Sony was the first vendor to officially announce its initial dual layer line. On March 17 Sony introduced two models, the DRU-700A and DRX-700UL with ship dates slated for the end of the second quarter. Pricing is $230 for the internal DRU-700A and $330 for the external DRX-700UL. The drives also function as single layer dual-format burners.

Philips’ product details are sketchier, but a company spokesman said some models should be on the market in the April/May time period.

HP is being even more elusive saying product will be available this summer, giving essentially the same information it gave at CES.

Verbatim will support these drives with its new 2.4x DataLifePlus DVD+R dual layer blank media that it said will be on the market by spring.

Companies backing the Dash DVD and RAM recordable format, such as Toshiba and Panasonic, have not made any dual layer announcements. A Toshiba spokeswoman said the company will not produce products that have not been approved by the DVD Forum.

There is a plan in place to introduce dual layer DVD-R products, said Tony Jasionowski, Panasonic’s senior manager of technologies and the U.S. chair of the recordable DVD council, but the council has not yet approved the specification. There is no plan for dual layer DVD-RAM.

The DVD Forum, which Toshiba and Panasonic belong, backs the Dash and RAM rewritable specification.

What Hewlett-Packard, Philips and Sony hope will happen is that the DVD burner market is spurred by the introduction of this new class of product.

Bob DeMoulin, Sony’s marketing manager for storage devices, said retailers are excited about having a new product that they can charge a premium on. He believes the dual layer capable drives will retain their value for a longer period of time than did the standard Plus and Dash formats before the usual price degradation sets in. Primarily because the technology needed to make the drives and media is expensive to develop.

"We believe these products will bring additional advantages and capacities to consumers, therefore adding value to the product, and that will be taken into consideration when pricing in the marketplace. And typically what has been happening when a new technology is introduced, the price bumps up for a couple of months, said Steve Johnson, HP’s worldwide DVD RW product marketing manager.

This pricing trend could continue as the initial DVD+R drives are followed by varieties that can also use +RW media. Sony’s DeMoulin and HP’s Johnson see rewritable dual layer drives are also possible product as well as dual format, dual layer types.

Philips does not see the need for the dual format capability to be added to dual layer drives.

"We strongly believe that DVD+R/RW including the newly introduced double layer technology the customer has all the functionality they require. Adding other formats to a product does not rely add any relevant functionality to the drive," said a company spokeswoman.

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