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Dell throws its weight behind DVD+RW

The PC giant decides to back DVD+RW as its choice for a rewritable DVD standard and will ship computers with integrated DVD+RW drives later this year.

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  New frontiers in DVD
Paul Liao, CTO, Panasonic
Dell Computer has thrown its weight as the No. 1 PC maker behind the rewritable DVD standard known as DVD+RW.

The Round Rock, Texas-based company announced Wednesday at PC Expo--which is part of Technology Exchange Week New York--that it is joining the DVD+RW Alliance and will begin shipping computers with integrated DVD+RW drives later this year, after the drives become available. The company has not decided how much to charge for the drives yet.

Last week, Hewlett-Packard, one of the founding companies of the DVD+RW Alliance, announced that it will use DVD+RW drives in its line of home PCs.

In a battle reminiscent of the one between Betamax and VHS in the 1980s, DVD+RW is competing with DVD-R and DVD-RAM to become the industrywide standard.

Mary Craig, an analyst at Gartner, stopped short of saying that the support of HP and Dell swings the momentum in the favor of DVD+RW.

"We've been hearing a number of companies hyping different standards, but (no DVD+RW drive) is shipping yet," she said. "Don't get caught up in the hype just yet. Once drives starts shipping, then we can talk."

She added that it is too soon to even discuss DVD+RW in the present tense because after three years of talk there are no products yet.

Jim Porter, an analyst at Disk/Trend, said Dell's decision is a "strong" show of support for DVD+RW. "But it's not a clincher," he said.

Porter added that continuing competition among the three standards is a "silly point of politics."

Rewritable DVD has long been on the tips of manufacturers' tongues as the successor to CD-rewritable. Rewritable DVDs can store significantly more data than CD-RWs, for example, giving consumers the ability to store longer home movies.

see Tech Trends: PC Expo product reviews However, competing standards and delayed products have created a cloud of uncertainty.

Craig called the announcements from Dell and HP logical ones because both manufacturers are trying to replicate the success they had with CD-RW. HP, Sony and Philips Electronics developed CD-RW, and all three are in the DVD+RW Alliance.

In addition to Dell, HP, Sony and Philips, the DVD+RW Alliance's members include Mitsubishi Chemical, Ricoh, Thomson Multimedia and Yamaha.