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Panasonic Getting Head Start On Philips With 4.7GB DVD-RAM

Panasonic’s plans for PC and consumer video DVD-RAM products has the company’s first 4.7GB drives in both categories slated to start shipping mid 2000, giving the DVD-RAM format a six-month head start on Philips’ DVD+RW.

Marco Truppi, Panasonic’s marketing manager for multimedia products, said sample 4.7GB DVD-RAM drives for PCs are now shipping to OEMs and a retail product is expected to ship by mid year. Pricing has not been set, but it should be similar to the $899 street price now carried by Panasonic’s 2.6GB DVD-RAM drive. Philips will start shipping a DVD+RW consumer video player by the end of next year, said Robert van Eijk, Philips’ optical storage division VP. The company will follow with a DVD+RW PC component at a later date. Pricing has not been determined for either product.

Panasonic’s plans for a home video version are not as firm, Truppi said, but a Panasonic player should be on market late next year or early 2001. Pricing has not been set.

The impact of DVD+RW’s late arrival into the market cannot be determined right now, said van Eijk. Truppi said the lead would help solidify DVD-RAM’s position as the dominant rewritable DVD format on the market.

Philips held a technology demonstration on Tuesday that showed a DVD+RW drive creating a 4.7GB disc, which was then played in eight different commercially available DVD movie players and a Compaq PC. Van Eijk said this was done to squelch industry rumors that 4.7GB DVD+RW was not compatible with the movie players.

Panasonic is not certain whether the 4.7GB computer drives will fully replace the 2.6GB single-sided and 5.3GB double-sided drives now on the market or if the two technologies will coexist. However, Truppi estimated that the 4.7GB variants would comprise about 50% of the 1.3 million DVD-RAM drives expected to ship worldwide next year. About 120,000 drives will ship in 1999.

One of the primary stumbling blocks facing DVD-RAM supporters Panasonic, Toshiba and Hitachi is the lack of an installed base of DVD-ROM drives that can read the rewritable media. Truppi said this problem is in the process of being solved by the three companies. All are now shipping DVD-ROM drives capable of reading 4.7GB DVD-RAM media. The three companies are responsible for the majority of DVD-ROM production in the world.