Consortium demos new rewritable DVD format at Comdex

Las Vegas - A six-strong alliance of storage companies today demonstrated DVD+RW, a new standard for rewritable Digital Video Disc technology at Comdex/Fall '97 here. The companies said the format will compete with the DVD-RAM standard backed by several manufacturers.

Las Vegas - A six-strong alliance of storage companies today demonstrated DVD+RW, a new standard for rewritable Digital Video Disc technology at Comdex/Fall '97 here. The companies said the format will compete with the DVD-RAM standard backed by several manufacturers.

The group championing the new standard includes companies currently involved in producing and selling CD-ROM and CD-ReWritable drives and media: Hewlett-Packard Co., Mitsubishi Chemical Corp,. Philips Electronics N.V., Ricoh Co. Ltd., Sony Corp. and Yamaha Corp.

According to Dave Deane, DVD marketing manger at Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP, DVD+RW media will have a capacity of 3 Gbytes per side. The competing DVD-RAM format from vendors such as Hitachi America Ltd., Panasonic Computer Peripheral Co. and Toshiba America Information Systems Inc. provide a capacity of 2.6 Gbytes per side.

The DVD+RW drives will have a sustained data transfer rate of 1.7 Mbytes per second, Deane said, and offer a better access time than DVD-RAM via support for both CAV (constant angular velocity) and CLV (constant linear velocity) reading and writing methods.

The companies said DVD+RW drives are due in late 1998. They would not comment on media or drive prices.

The coalition said the new devices will let users read CD-RW media; this capability is not required of developers of DVD-RAM drives.

In addition, the DVD+RW drives will offer a user experience similar to using current CD-RW drives, the companies said. For example, users will be able to record a bare disc or use a protective caddy or cartridge for the media. By contrast, DVD-RAM drives will require cartridge-based media recording, although the drives will be able to play bare media.

HP said users preferred the DVD+RW approach. "It's a psychological issue, but a real one," Deane said. In addition, Deane said the cartridge requirement of DVD-RAM could lead to larger carriage mechanisms, thus limiting the technology's use in laptops or small enclosures.

Toshiba executives, however, said the DVD-RAM cartridge improved reliability, especially for double-sided media. The DVD-RAM faction said it expects to release drives in the second quarter of 1998.

"DVD+RW will cause confusion in the marketplace," said Mary Bourbon, senior analyst with Dataquest Inc. of San Jose, Calif. "It's surprising that they want to compete at the specification level, not on the product level."

Bourbon said the primary challenge for the DVD+RW alliance will be marketing, since the DVD-RAM companies have a head start. She said the standards are somewhat close in capacity and provide similar features. "Technology doesn't really matter to the average consumer," Bourbon said.