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Thomson unveils Divx player

The company becomes the latest manufacturer to jump on the controversial alternative to DVD discs.

Consumers aching to buy Divx players, the controversial alternative to DVD, now have twice as many options.

Tomorrow, Thomson will roll out its RCA brand Divx player, the RCA RC5230Z, which will effectively double the number of Divx manufacturers.

Divx is a pay-per-view version of DVD designed to appeal to movie studios concerned about DVD piracy as well as consumers irritated by the hassles and late fees involved in returning movies to the video store.

RCA RC-5230Z
RCA RC-5230Z

Consumers pay $4.50 for a DVD movie title in Divx format. After the first viewing, the disc works for 48 hours. Viewers can then extend the viewing period or buy the title.

Home video enthusiasts complain that, although Divx may stymie piracy, it offers nothing to consumers that DVD does not, and in fact denies viewers control over how and where they can view movies.

These debates have largely been hypothetical for the last year, as Divx was just recently rolled out on a limited basis. Only one manufacturer, Zenith, was actually shipping a Divx-enabled DVD player.

"It's a positive, because now you've got a choice of devices and that's a good thing," said Van Baker, a Dataquest analyst. "There's probably a lot of people out there not comfortable buying a Zenith player," he said, referring to the consumer electronics company's recent financial problems.

The RCA RC5230Z, which is priced at $499, will be available at approximately 800 consumer electronics stores this weekend.

"We believe that the Divx feature provides significant added value to the RCA DVD players and enhances the consumer's overall entertainment experience," said Larry Pesce, general manager of worldwide DVD product management for Thomson, in a statement.

ProScan is expected to introduce its Divx player by the end of the month, and Pioneer, JVC, and Panasonic are all expected to introduce players in 1999.

Still, Divx has a long way to go before they will be a real competitor to open DVD, Baker said. "What remains to be seen is Divx delivering on titles. They thought they would be matching DVD in terms of title availability, and that the open DVD market was going to stall. That did not happen."

"The prospects for Divx still do not look real good," Baker said.