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Philips, HP, Thomson Ready DVD+RW Units

DVD+RW products will finally arrive this summer with Philips, Thomson Consumer Electronics and Hewlett-Packard announcing launch dates for home DVD recorders and PC drives at PC Expo in late June.

The news confirmed launch plans originally announced by the DVD+RW Alliance members at CES in January, but followed the introduction of second-generation products from the competing DVD-RAM format earlier this month. DVD-RAM products have been available since last year.

Frans Bos, Philips’ strategic alliance manager, said the company’s new CEO would officially announce Philips’ DVDR 1000 home recorder in Berlin on Aug. 26, with a PC drive to follow in late September (see related Philips story, p. 18). Pricing for either product was not available. Thomson’s home recorder will debut in late September, with pricing to be announced at that time, said Rick Koertge, manager of DVD product planning, adding that Thomson plans to only play in the CE space with its DVD+RW products.

David Birk, Hewlett-Packard’s DVD+RW Alliance representative, said a PC drive from HP will be available later this summer with a sub-$800 price point. While Birk would not give a firm price point, he did say the drive would be competitively priced with other rewritable DVD products on the market. The first DVD+RW drives will be available in HP Pavilion PCs shortly after the general launch, said Mark Bony, HP Pavilion product manager. The most likely scenario will have the drives offered through the company’s configure-to-order program and as a component in a high-end PC.

At the show, Panasonic showed a new DVD-RAM PC drive that carries a sub-$600 price tag and will ship next month. The 4.7GB DVD-RAM drive will utilize a newly developed optical head that will allow broader media support, said Paul Liao, Panasonic’s chief technology officer.

The first-generation DVD+RW products will all have DVD+R capability. DVD+R media is expected to be less expensive than its DVD+RW counterpart and possibly backward compatible with even more products than DVD+RW, Birk said. The Alliance is still conducting compatibility studies and could not say in how many more players and drives the DVD+R media would play.

Christine Roby, worldwide product manager for HP’s Colorado Personal Storage Solutions, said the advent of DVD+R and DVD-R does give the two formats a small amount of cross-compatibility. Since each is capable of being read in older DVD video players and DVD-ROM drives, she said, there is no reason why DVD+R media should not play in a DVD-RAM drive and vice versa.

Ricoh, which announced, then canceled plans for DVD+RW hardware, and Mitsubishi Chemical have DVD+RW and DVD+R write-once media available.

Alliance member Sony will have no products available until the second half of 2002, when a PC drive is expected.

The DVD+RW camp also added a new member this week, with Dell Computers joining the Alliance. Sean McDonald, Dell’s senior manager for peripheral marketing, said the first PCs to feature the drive should be available by the end of the year. McDonald said Dell chose the DVD+RW because of its backward compatibility with the existing base of DVD video players and DVD-ROM drives.