Long wait for recordable DVD, could be a blessing

As the UK waits for recordable DVD, the Japanese and Americans risk ending up with obsolete designs

It will be at least another two years before recordable DVD players hit UK stores according to experts. The Japanese will start using their new players Friday .

Experts blame unresolved format wars despite protestations from Panasonic that only one standard format for recordable players exists. Thus far there has as yet been no consensus on which format to standardise on. For instance Pioneer's new player supports DVD-R, which is not compatible with DVD-RAM, which Panasonic supports.

David Mercer, senior analyst at Strategic Analytics, reckons a single format won't be agreed upon till 2002. "The whole thing is a bit of a nightmare at the moment," he said "It will be at least two years before it hits the UK consumer market." Further muddying the water will be the introduction of competing formats. An example of this is NEC's recently developed proprietary Multimedia Video Disc, which is not compatible with any DVD format. Mercer believes Sony's second generation MiniDisc format, MD Data2 media , will also compete with recordable DVD.

He also points out that solid state flash memory is also a future option.

The DVD Forum, an association of hardware and software manufacturers, is working to establish a standard format for recordable DVD. However its efforts have been hampered by a lack of support from all corners of the industry. Panasonic, for example, is one of the major players in the DVD arena and is not yet a member of the Forum.

All the squabbling over formats -- Sony apparently calls Pioneer's DVD-RW format 'minus' RW when comparing it to the Sony DVD+RW -- could actually end up benefiting UK consumers according to Rob Mead, reviews editor and DVD expert at T3 magazine. "We won't see these players over here for at least a year, when hopefully all this will have been sorted." The risk, says Mead, is that the Japanese and Americans may end up with obsolete designs.

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