The company says the first rewritable DVD-RAM drive, capable of writing to and reading from high capacity disks -- 9.4Gb compared with today's 5.4Gb -- will be available early next year. For the consumer, watching and recording films and other multimedia applications onto one of these disks could be a reality by spring.
Initially the Panasonic drive will be available only to manufacturers but a retail package -- not cheap at around £400 -- will be available from April.
Panasonic's marketing manager John Newman promised a DVD set-top box of similar capacity by the middle of 2000. It is expected to retail at around £600.
Hitachi, Toshiba and other members of the DVD Forum are expected to make similar announcements in coming months.