Sony shifts rewritable DVD battle to PCs

Sony shifts rewritable DVD battle to PCs

Sony has shifted the front lines in the rewritable DVD format battle with the announcement it will back a rival format and not its own for consumer electronics use. The company announced two weeks ago, plans to sell a consumer DVD video recorder based on the DVD-RW format and not its own DVD+RW format.

These formats are two of the three systems battling for the position as the de-facto standard rewritable optical disc system in both the consumer electronics and personal computer markets. The two technologies have the same basic capabilities; they can record about 5G bytes of data on discs that can be played back on read-only DVD video players. However, each is incompatible with the other as they were developed by different companies.

The third format DVD-RAM, was developed by yet another group of companies.

Sony, which co-developed DVD+RW with HP, Thomson Multimedia, Mitsubishi, Yamaha, Ricoh and Koninklijke Philips Electronics, said it still plans to back DVD+RW in computer-related applications but will go with DVD-RW for use in the living room.

"If the market demands change, we might consider switching to DVD+RW for consumer electronics," said Aki Shimazu, a Sony spokesperson.

The announcement redraws the boundaries in the rewritable DVD battle. With Sony's weight behind DVD-RW, the battle for the living room looks almost settled, say analysts. The only major consumer electronics maker now backing DVD+RW for consumer video player use is Philips. Its other competitor DVD-RAM, has the big-name backing of Matsushita Electric Industrial, Hitachi and Toshiba, yet analysts are cool on its prospects because of technical and physical compatibility problems.

"The major concern for rewritable DVD is compatibility," said Masaki Suzuki, senior analyst for storage at market research company Gartner Japan. "At the moment DVD-RW and DVD+RW have some advantage over DVD-RAM in terms of compatibility with DVD Video players," Suzuki said.

Although analysts are happy to reason why DVD-RAM may be at a disadvantage in the rewritable market, they decline to speculate on the eventual winner of the DVD-RW vs. DVD+RW battle.

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