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The DVD format war – Current standings

Posted 26 September 2003 14:18 CET by DoMiN8ToR

Recently the IFA exhibition was held in Berlin, . CD Freaks visited this exhibition with the goal to be informed on the current standing on the DVD recordable market. We were given the opportunity to talk to several people involved in the DVD recordable market and to discuss what we can expect the coming time and what progress has been made.

We also visited press conferences of several formats. Currently the DVD recordable market is still divided, there is the DVD-RAM, DVD-RW and the DVD+RW format, all having their own advantages and disadvantages. Expectations are that one of them will become main stream in the end and will be the winner of the DVD recordable race as it is called within the industry.

The current promotors:

Currently there are three organizations promoting their format:

  • RDVDC - The Recordable DVD counsil (DVD-RAM + DVD-RW)
  • The DVD+RW alliance (DVD+RW
  • The RWPPI (DVD-RW)

All of them had their own booth during the IFA where they demonstrated their latest products and the benefits of their format. Of course DVD+RW and DVD-RW both claimed to be most compatible.

Compatibility:


DVD+RW showed a report from the independent Intellikey Labs, as where DVD-RW claimed their superior compatibility with a test performed by another website (click here for the link and our comments), but still is unclear which format is the most compatible. It however seems to be clear that the difference between the two formats is not substantial and results on these tests are still vague and will likely remain this way because there are many variables involved in testing this and different setting might have different results. The same goes for different recorders, firmwares, players and media.

Speed:

The most interesting thing at the moment seems to be the need for speed. As where DVD+R is currently at 8 speed, a spokesman of the RWPPI told us that specifications for DVD-R will probably be released in the autumn (November) of 2003, and the first consumer devices will probably hit the market in spring 2004. At this time it is expected that DVD+R will hit 12 speed. The joint venture of BenQ and Philips seems to work out very well, where Philips is technology provider and developing production lines and moving them to the Taiwanese BenQ, which does the production, as production costs are much cheaper then in Europe . Together they seem to be partly responsible for the progress made by the DVD+RW alliance. The DVD+RW format is not as long on the market as the DVD-RW and seems currently to profit from a technological advantage.

The DVD-R format is, according to a spokesman of the RWPPI, behind due to the DVD-Forum which still has not approved the 8 speed specifications for DVD-R. E.g. Pioneer licenses the technology of this forum and therefore has to wait till the specifications are released.

Besides that, there was also a press conference from the RDVDC, which has as subtitle; 'The real DVD". The RDVDC supports both DVD-RW and DVD-RAM compatible products. Interesting enough the RDVDC announced that DVD-RAM speeds will be increased the coming years. DVD-RAM is currently available at a maximum of 3x in 2004 and this should be raised to 5x,  the format should be at 16x in 2005

Where the DVD+RW camp was able to show improvements in their technology, with several 8x DVD+RW recorders and also announcement of support from media manufacturers such as Ricoh, TDK and Verbatim, the DVD-RW camp was able to show us a dummy of a 8x DVD-R media packaging. So, on the part of recording speed there is a clear winner: DVD+RW. For now this format is clearly ahead.

Industry support:

During the press conference of the DVD+RW alliance also another interesting issue came forward, Panasonic and Toshiba, both manufacturers of DVD-RAM and/or DVD-RW product are now also licensing DVD+RW technology. Rumors are that Toshiba is currently even manufacturing DVD+RW drives for large OEM customers. All with all the DVD+RW alliance showcased an overwhelming amount of information trying to convince us that on their side everything goes very well and we must say, their future looks bright.

The spokesman of the RWPPI confirmed that Toshiba and Panasonic license the DVD+RW technology but also stated that he did not see an end to the DVD format any time near. According to him the demand for DVD-RW will be ongoing. This is also very likely as currently most optical drive manufacturers are producing dual format drives, which support both DVD-RW and DVD+RW.

We can easily say that DVD-RAM is about a forgotten format on the PC, but in consumer electronic devices (VCRs) the format is the biggest in the .

However, most DVD-RAM recorders will also start to support DVD-RW. According to the RDVDC this is caused due consumer demand. One of the disadvantages of the DVD-RAM is the high price of media, during the press conference the question was raised if the price of media would go down, the answer was very unclear and we expect that this will remain a disadvantage of DVD-RAM and hence the support for DVD-RW, which will be earlier at higher speeds and is cheaper, but the DVD-RAM format believes that it's flexible recording technique is still superior over DVD-RW and DVD+RW. The DVD-RAM promoters are marketing the DVD-RAM format as flexible, compatible (with all DVD-RAM compatible devices), fast and durable.

To conclude the industry support, both DVD-RW and DVD+RW are widely supported, DVD+RW does have some DVD+RW-only manufacturers and is the format chosen by Dell and HP which will likely make a difference in the future. But at the current moment, there is no real significant advantage. DVD+RW is slightly ahead, and DVD-RAM is clearly behind or even considered dead on the PC platform.

Consumer electronics support:

 


In Europe have been many efforts to promote the DVD-RAM format as the solution for stand alone video recorders, but recent developments have not showcased any progress and the format war on the PC remains between DVD+RW and DVD-RW, while on consumer electronics devices the market is more divided. However, also in this market there are some developments. During the IFA about 20 companies showcased video recorders that used the DVD+RW to record, at the same time only 4 brands showcased DVD-RW products, 3 showcased DVD-RAM products and 1 showcased DVD-RW and DVD-RAM combined video recorders. Most DVD+RW devices are based on Philips' Nexperia, the reference design developed by Philips which makes it easy for DVD recorder producers to integrate DVD+RW support in their devices which has shown its efficiency by reducing the development time till time to market. In this area the winner is also still unclear, DVD+RW is making progress, but still has a lot of work to do, in the United States the market share of DVD-RAM is very large and over there it is the clear winner.

Media developments:

On the media side also interesting developments are going on. More and more Japanese companies are currently also in joint ventures with Taiwanese companies to reduce the costs. Currently is e.g. Ricoh (Japanese) media manufactured in Riteks (Taiwanese) production facilities, where Ricoh delivers the stamper and production guidelines (technology) and Ritek does manufacturing. This is cost reducing and improves quality as Ritek does high volumes but works according to Ricoh quality.

Many media enthusiasts already noticed this, because the ADIP code of these discs remains Ricoh, while they are manufactured in

Conclusion:

The DVD format race is ongoing and a lot of progress has been made recently, support for DVD+RW is becoming larger and larger and the DVD-RW camp will need to come with improvements soon to not come behind. While currently DVD-RW is widely supported, the DVD+R(W) might become the first choice for consumers because of its speed and wide availability of devices, which will likely also decrease prices.

Update: On Computex there have been more manufacturers announcing speed increases and according to most drive and media manufacturers the DVD+RW format will likely become the dominating format.

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