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DVDs, drives don't mix, says government study

A study by the standards arm of the U.S. Commerce Department shows that DVDs and DVD drives are compatible a mere 85 percent of the time.

Recordable DVDs stand a substantial chance of being incompatible with DVD drives, but the situation is improving with new models, according to an ongoing government survey.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a division of the U.S. Commerce Department's Technology Administration, said its tests proved DVDs and DVD drives to be compatible only 85 percent of the time.

"This means that if a recording is made on 10 different brands of DVDs, the odds are that at least one will not work," the institute said in announcing the results Thursday. "The problematic results range from DVDs that do not work at all, suddenly freeze, or have video or audio 'drop out.'"

The study's results will come as no surprise to followers of the DVD format wars. One of the battles concerns competing formats for rewritable discs and another different formats for blue-laser technology, which promises to provide greater storage than current red lasers can.

NIST is conducting the tests in concert with two industry groups, the DVD Association and the Optical Storage Technology Association.

NIST said that although no one disc or drive was universally compatible, newer models of DVD drives did "significantly better" than the older ones.

NIST tested 14 DVD-ROM drive models, which represented about 60 percent of the installed base in America as of 2002, and more than 50 different kinds of recordable DVDs. In a second phase of the study, NIST and the trade groups will look at DVD drives new to the market.