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Apple moves to support DVD+RW format

After years of backing only one format in the recordable DVD format war, the computer maker adds limited support of a rival format into its operating system.

After years of backing only one format in the recordable DVD format war, Apple Computer is adding limited support of a rival format into its operating system.

Apple, a longtime supporter of the DVD-R format, confirmed Monday that it is adding support for DVD+R and DVD+RW into the Macintosh operating system with Panther, the new version of Mac OS X that ships next week. Apple is only adding support for backing up data and has not yet added support for the format into its media applications, such as iDVD and iTunes.

Although they are both formats for recording DVDs that can be played on PCs and in many consumer DVD players, DVD+RW drives cannot write to DVD-R or DVD-RW media, just as DVD-RW drives can't write to DVD+R or DVD+RW media. Increasingly popular are drives that are capable of writing both formats.

Nonetheless, the move is a strategic shift for Apple, which until now has supported only the -R standard, contending it was used by more DVD players. The company has shipped some machines with Sony-made drives that can write to both the +R and -R standards, but in those cases it turned off the +R capabilities.

An Apple representative said that the move came at the request of customers, many of whom own third-party DVD burners. Apple did not say whether it would add DVD+R support into future versions of its iApps, such as iDVD.

Apple drive supplier Pioneer, which has been one of the big makers of DVD-R drives, announced in May that it would support both formats. Microsoft has also added support for both types of discs.

A fierce battle between the two rival formats has been raging for years.

The DVD+RW format had the early backing of several PC makers, including Dell and Hewlett-Packard, while consumer electronics makers such as Panasonic and Hitachi pushed the rival DVD-RW format.

However, the -R camp lost a key backer when Compaq Computer was acquired by HP, which has steadfastly supported the +RW format. Sony also moved from the DVD-R camp to supplying drives that can read and write to both types of discs.

Also, the DVD+RW format, which was initially seen as less compatible than its rival, is now supported by most DVD players, analysts say.

Backers of the -R format said that Apple's move does not necessarily spell defeat for their format.

"I don't think it's a negative thing; I don't think it's a positive thing," said Andy Marken, a representative for the Recordable DVD Council, a hardware and software trade group that supports the DVD-R format. "It is just (Apple) doing the right thing for Mac users."

Marken said that archiving data is an important use of DVD burning and that supporting more than one format allows consumers to choose whichever flavor of media is cheaper on store shelves.

"It gives the consumer the ultimate choice," Marken said.

Meanwhile, the DVD+RW Alliance praised the move as another step in what it says is a steady move toward +RW among PC makers.

"I think it is clear to us that +RW is really becoming the de facto standard for recording on the PC side of the business," DVD+RW Alliance spokesman Jerry Brown said. Brown said that in addition to having the top PC sellers Dell and HP solidly on its side, there are "other companies they have been moving steadily toward adding +RW capabilities."

CNET's Richard Shim contributed to this report.