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Panasonic Goes On DVD-RAM Offensive

Panasonic made the push for DVD-RAM and DVD-R with the introduction of two new recordable decks, a new DVD camcorder, a DVD multidrive and aggressively priced blank DVD-RAM media during PC-Expo, here.

“We expect sales of DVD recorders to grow explosively,” said Mike Aguilar, Panasonic senior VP of merchandising. “It will exceed 200,000 units this year and grow to 7 million units in 2005, accounting for 20 percent of all DVD sales in that year.”

Of all the competing media formats, Aguilar claimed that DVD-RAM currently holds the No. 1 spot in sell-through market share.

Panasonic VP Jeff Cove claimed that DVD-RAM offered the best rewritable format due to its random access memory and, when coupled with DVD-R, offered the widest compatibility. Seeking to emphasize compatibility, Cove claimed that 10 of its 14 DVD players on the market this year will be able to play back DVD-RAM.

The company announced its first DVD recorder with a 40GB built-in hard drive, the DMR-HS2. The unit will ship in October, and according to the company, the target suggested retail price will be $1,199.95. The model is similar to Toshiba’s fall arrival, the RD-X2, which sports an 80GB hard-drive and a suggested retail price of $1,499.

The HS2 can read and write to DVD-RAM and DVD-R discs and features an IEEE1394 input for recording video from a digital camcorder onto a DVD-RAM or DVD-R disc. It features “relief recording” (also know as relay recording), which automatically switches from disc to hard-drive if the disc runs out of space during recording.

The unit does not come with an associated service program, as other PVR devices like TiVo and Replay TV. A Panasonic executive at the conference said the issue of charging subscription fees on top of the cost of the device would be a turn-off to most consumers.

The HS2 also features a PCMCIA card slot to accept digital stills saved on flash memory cards. The unit can then produce slide shows and burn JPEG image files to DVD-RAM/R discs.

Hoping to spur adoption, Panasonic announced that it will break new price point ground for the category in August, when it will ship a sub-$1,000 third-generation recorder, the DMR-E30.

The DMR-E30 will have a suggested retail price of $799.95. It carries over a number of features from its predecessor, the E20, including the ability to record and play on DVD-RAM and DVD-R discs, Time Slip, progressive scan, as well as playback of CD-R and CD-RW discs.

To complement the recorder decks, Panasonic will ship the VDR-M20 DVD camcorder in September for a suggested retail price of $999.95. The M20 records video onto an 8 cm DVD-RAM and/or DVD-R discs and features a 1.1 megapixel CCD that records a million pixels for still images and 720,000 for video.

The camcorder also features a built-in USB port, and a 12x optical/240x digital zoom. It does not feature a 1394 interface to digitally connect with the new DVD recordable decks.

Moving from living room to computer room, Panasonic also unveiled a new recordable DVD drive, the DVDBurner II, which will ship in October for a suggested retail price of under $500.

The new drive meets DVD Multi specifications and can read/write to all recordable DVD formats approved by the DVD Forum, as well as to CD-R/RW discs. When writing to a DVD-R General disc, the drive hits 2x speeds and plays back DVD-R at 6x. It can write to CD-Rs at up to 12x and to CD-RW at up to 8x speed.