Pioneer sets recordable DVD ball rolling

First recordable DVD player could hasten the end of traditional video recording and the dawn of a digital age

On Friday Pioneer announced the world's first recordable DVD player, a move that could push forward the digital discs' replacement of traditional video recording technology.

The player and DVD discs will be launched in North America and Europe next year, the audio and video equipment maker said on Friday.

The new video machines allow recording of up to six hours and will be first sold in Japan from 3 December at a price of 250,000 yen (£1,487) each, a Pioneer spokesman said. The company aims to sell 30,000 units in Japan by March 2000 and 150,000 to 200,000 in Japan in the year starting next April.

Pioneer has yet to set an overseas sales target or the exact date of its sales startup, he said. Blank recordable DVD-RW discs will cost 3,000 yen (£18) each, the spokesman said.

Recent reports have predicted that sales of DVD players are set to soar in the US and Europe. Analysts predict that the format will eventually replace VHS machines altogether. But one of the major inhibitors of mass market takeup is that while DVDs play beautiful-quality video, playing is all they do.

"We've always said that the main restriction to DVD taking over is that there isn't a recordable player," said senior analyst at Strategy Analytics Nick Griffiths. "Following the introduction of these players you can look for DVD bypassing VHS by 2003 to 2004."

However there are still issues to be resolved, with one of the most pressing being the question of format compatibility. There are currently several competing formats for recordable DVD. At present no consensus has been reached by DVD manufacturers on a standard format. Griffiths believes that this will be resolved by the end of next year, as the manufacturers "can't afford to be messing about in a format war".

Although not committing to a firm launch date, other manufacturers, such as Samsung, have also been touting their own recordable players. David King of DVD marketing group DVD Committee admitted he was as yet unsure of the details of Pioneer's player but said that "a lot of these moves are political. Players in this fledgling market need to keep making declarations of innovation to reassure their shareholders."

King believes that the recordable DVD market will not really take off until the DVD Forum, of which Pioneer is a member, comes up with a standard recordable format.

Pioneer was unavailable for comment.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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