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DVD+RW To Take On DVD-RAM This Fall

The six vendors supporting the DVD+RW format reported at PC Expo last week they will begin volume shipments of the drive and media this fall and also announced plans for a CD-RW drive that can read DVD-ROM media.

The vendors were confident that their rewritable format will overcome compatibility issues, a fragmented market, and competition from DVD-RAM, which has been shipping for a year.

Hewlett-Packard, Mitsubishi Chemical/Verbatim, Philips and Sony will ship the drives, but Ricoh and Yamaha have decided to hold back to see how the market develops. The first drives can burn 3GB of data to a DVD disc.

David Deane, Hewlett-Packard’s strategic business director, said the primary stumbling block facing DVD+RW is the lack of an installed base of DVD-ROM drives that can read the rewritable format. The most compelling reason to have a DVD+RW drive is to share data with others, Deane said. But the DVD-ROM drives and movie players now available cannot read the media created with a DVD+RW drive so data cannot be shared.

“There is still no compelling DVD software available. We still expect a killer DVD application to come, but when it will [happen] we just don’t now,” Deane said.

The DVD+RW group has a two-prong plan to solve the problem. Deane said DVD-ROM vendors have been told how to fix the drives so they can read DVD+RW media and will start shipping compatible units in late 1999.

In addition, CD-RW drives capable of reading the media will be available in limited quantities this year and fully roll out next year, said Robert van Eijk, Philips optical storage division VP. Pricing and manufacturers for these CD-RW drives were not announced.

However, this fix cannot be made to DVD movie players. DVD+RW media will not be compatible with these devices until the new 4.7GB media becomes available in late 2000 or early 2001, Deane said.

Deane and van Eijk said the DVD+RW camp is not concerned about the inroads DVD-RAM has made in the past year. They admitted that about 100,000 DVD-RAM drives have shipped so far, but believe the fact that DVD-RAM’s lower capacity, 2.6GB, and lack of user friendliness gives DVD+RW the advantage in the long run.