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Recordable DVD Study Draws Criticism

Recordings made on DVD+R/+RW recordable media surpass those made on DVD-R/-RW media for compatibility with standard DVD drives and players, according to a controversial new independent study released by Intellikey Labs.

The survey of “the leading DVD write-once and rewritable formats” resulted in the following compatibility numbers: DVD+R, 90 percent; DVD-R, 77 percent; DVD+RW, 72 percent; and DVD-RW, 66 percent.

“Consumers have been struggling with the decision to purchase DVD+RW/+R or DVD-R/-RW recordable devices because of confusion over compatibility,” said Lars Keffer, Intellikey Labs managing director. “This research arms them with information needed to confidently select a product for sharing their video creations and data backups.”

However, Pioneer Electronics, a developer of the DVD-R/-RW formats, said the survey contradicts the findings of a study the same company conducted for Pioneer two months earlier. In the July report, Intellikey found DVD-R and DVD+R write-once discs to have equal 78 percent compatibility records, while the DVD+RW format registered a 63 percent compatibility record to 58 percent tallied by Pioneer’s DVD-RW rewriteable media.

A Pioneer spokesperson said the company initially elected to use the study for internal information purposes only, but decided to publish the results after Intellikey publicly announced the most recent study.

“We agree with Intellikey that consumers have been struggling with the decision to purchase DVD-R/RW or +R/+RW recordable devices because of confusion about the recorded discs’ playback compatibility. The nature of recordable DVD technology makes it difficult to draw a clear conclusion about compatibility — the variation between the two Intellikey test results clearly illustrates this,” stated Andy Parsons, Pioneer Electronics Business Solutions Division senior VP. “It’s not in the consumer’s best interest to present one set of results as conclusive evidence.”

Pioneer said it believes the support of the DVD Forum — the organization that originally brought DVD to market — will be the overriding factor in the success of any of the recordable DVD formats. The DVD Forum has supported the DVD-R/-RW and DVD-RAM formats, but has not sanctioned the DVD+R/+RW formats.

Both Intellikey tests used 100 domestic and international brand DVD players, with some models dating back to 1997.

Lars Keffer, Intellikey managing director, said the two compatibility studies “were quite different, and used different methodology,” to explain the different findings.

“Pioneer’s implication that the separate Intellikey tests are contradictory and therefore undermine the credibility of the results is entirely false due simply to the fact that the test scenarios in each instance were completely different,” Keffer said. “They were not the same test, with different results, but two entirely different tests.”

Keffer said both studies were performed to the methodology specifications of each client. Pioneer commissioned the first study. Keffer would not reveal the client for the second study. He said that Intellikey published the findings of the second study at the request of the client.

One of the primary differences between the two tests, Keffer said, was the latest study used decks and media that were purchased “off the shelf” at retail stores, and Intellikey burned the test discs.

In the Pioneer study, Intellikey was given the discs that had been burned by the Crest National production facility, using name brand computer drives on blank media from a variety of companies, including Pioneer, HP, Memorex, TDK, Sony and Verbatim.

According to an official statement, Philips — developer of the DVD+R/+RW formats — said the latest test was in line with its expectations, since “the DVD+RW format has been developed from the start to be compatible with DVD Video and DVD ROM drives.

“The DVD-RW format, on the other hand, has not been designed from the start to be compatible with DVD Video and DVD ROM drives, hence the inclusion of two different modes in the product — a DVD-RW VR mode and DVD-RW VM mode,” stated a Philips spokesperson. “We regret that the study only tested the DVD-RW VM mode, and we would have liked to see the compatibility test results for the DVD-RW VR mode as well, to allow for a full comparison of the difference in format.”

Intellikey’s Keffer said, “I wouldn’t say in any way are these tests conclusive. They do not include every possible variable that you could use, including the burners or the discs. I think there is a lot of room for all kinds of additional tests.

“I personally would like to see someone fund a test that would be comprehensive and could give more conclusive results. Unfortunately, these tests were limited to what we were asked to do in the context of that test.”