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Vanishing DVD puzzles Japanese Mac fans

Although attendees at Macworld criticize Apple's decision to drop DVD-ROM from its consumer desktops, they are glad to see the advent of CD-RW in the iMac.

    CHIBA, Japan--When Apple Computer announced new iMacs at last week's Macworld Expo/Tokyo, one feature was conspicuously absent: a DVD-ROM drive.

    In place of the DVD-ROM devices available in earlier versions of the consumer desktop, the new models follow through on Apple's promise to bring Macs up to speed with CD-RW, a storage technology where Apple CEO Steve Jobs has acknowledged his company "missed the boat."

    Will the trade-off prove successful in the market? Mac watchers at the Japanese show offered the move mixed marks. While they hailed the arrival of Mac CD-RW, most attendees polled by CNET said DVD is still more useful to them.

    Hirotaka Uoi, a professor of engineering, said Apple should have offered CD-RW as a new choice, not a replacement for DVD-ROM. He said the change was especially unsettling since Apple has been pushing DVD as a key feature of its consumer strategy since the October 1999 introduction of the first iMac DV models.

    "Having the option (of CD-RW or DVD-ROM) is good, but taking away the DVD is a terrible thing," he said. "Apple was pushing DVD, then they took it away.

    Junko Onoda, a housewife, expressed surprise that none of the new iMacs ship with DVD-ROM. "DVDs are more important because there are numerous external CD-RW drives available" in Japan.

    Sho Sakai, an illustrator, owns a DVD-equipped Power Mac G4 system and doesn't use a CD-RW. "DVD is more important than CD-RW when making a purchase decision," he said. However, he suggested that the CD-RW option may go further than DVD-ROM in differentiating Apple's line. "Maybe more people that use it as a personal computer will want a CD-RW (because) DVDs are available in the Sony PlayStation 2 and there are many consumer DVD-ROM drives available."

    Hiroko Sato, also an illustrator, took a slightly different view of DVD's significance. "DVD is more important but not for watching movies," she said. Instead, Sato was more interested in the higher-density DVD format for future software distribution. "You can get more software on a DVD" than a CD, she said.

    A step back?
    Chikayasu Suzuki owns a PowerBook G3 and an iBook. Although he doesn't watch DVDs or make CD-RWs, he criticized the decision to remove the former in favor of the latter. "DVD is a more popular decision," he said. "I don't understand why Apple is taking a step back (by removing the DVD.)

    "If CD-RW drives were rare or expensive, I would understand...but why now?"

    Japanese Mac users' attitudes reflect the realities of the local market, where third-party, external CD-RW drives are far more common than DVD drives. In addition, Japanese consumers who plan to purchase an external DVD drive are more likely to buy a consumer deck that connects to a television because of its higher quality and lower price.

    Furthermore, many Japanese users prefer to listen to their personal music on Minidiscs rather than on CDs, which further diminishes the usefulness of CD-RW drives.