As two new companies join the DVD Forum, the industry consortium working on setting recordable DVD standards, Hewlett-Packard is casting doubts on whether the standard will fly with consumers.
In Tokyo, Sharp and Sanyo Electric are joining the effort to promote a recordable DVD standard called DVD-RAM, according to the online version of Nikkei Business Publications. But while the DVD Forum is moving to shore up support for DVD-RAM, officials at HP are casting aspersions on the technology.
HP, along with Sony, Philips, Mitsubishi Chemical, and Ricoh, recently announced that it is working on a noncompatible alternative to DVD-RAM called DVD+RW (or DVD RW). One of the concerns, according to HP, is that the DVD-RAM discs have to be ensconced in a cartridge to ensure data is recorded accurately.
"We think that...people are more comfortable with something that looks like the CD. It's high technology and yet unintimidating. A [DVD-RAM] cartridge looks different," says Dave Deane, DVD marketing manager for HP. It sounds trivial, Dean admits, but packaging can mean the difference between mass-market acceptance of a product and relegation to the sidelines of the market for storage devices.
A spokesperson for Hitachi, which is developing DVD-RAM drives, counters by saying that eventually the technology will advance to the point where the cartridges aren't needed.
Philips has other concerns about DVD-RAM, but downplays the division over a recordable DVD standard. "We think the key issue is compatibility. DVD RW is more easily made compatible with existing CD technologies," says a Philips spokesperson.
Overall, the debate over recordable DVD standards is "a tempest in a teapot," he says, because all of these products are several years from being released on the market.
In the meanwhile, DVD Forum is working to advance DVD-RAM technology so that it can store 4.7GB per side, equaling the amount of data that can be stored on a DVD-ROM. Hitachi is already working on such technology and plans to offer the drives by early 1999. DVD-RAM technology proposed to date has only offered 2.6GB per side.
There is currently no market consensus on whether DVD-RAM or another technology will become the industry standard, but one possibility is that a drive could be modified to read both formats. Another possibility is that the different formats will find acceptance in different market segments, according to Philips.