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Dearth of DVD?

Hardware, titles in short supply

A new survey from DVD Report, a trade publication covering the Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) industry, says that retailers are having trouble keeping DVD-video titles and hardware in stock, reflecting a trend that may repeat itself in the PC industry.

DVD hardware and software is being adopted more rapidly than expected, leading retailers to demand that movie studios release more titles. In spite of a shortage of titles, 86 percent of the respondents said sales of hardware and software are either good or excellent. Retailers are averaging 100 titles and more than ten standalone DVD players sold each week, the report says.

Higher-than-expected demand for DVD-video titles, which are used in standalone DVD players that attach to televisions, could mean the PC industry will embrace DVD more rapidly than initially expected.

"New technology normally has problems getting off the ground. Retailers are usually the first to be skeptical if its not bringing sales in for them, but they are excited to the extent of wishing there were more titles and more players in many cases," says Tom O'Reilly, editor of DVD Report.

"I think this trend will play in the PC industry as well. [DVD] is a no-brainer in terms of being successful. I don't think anybody expects it to be much more than 18 to 24 months before all computers have a DVD-ROM drive instead of a CD-ROM drive," O'Reilly says. "It'll be so much better that it might even spur sales of DVD-video players."

DVD-ROM drives, which are expected to be the catalysts for the "convergence" of consumer electronics and PCs, have slowly been making their way into new computer systems, but the pace has been picking up of late. DVD-ROM drives can play back titles but not record. DVD-RAM drives, due possibly in 1998, will be able to both play back and record.

Just this week, Packard Bell-NEC and Hewlett-Packard introduced new systems with DVD-ROM drives. In the two months prior, Toshiba, IBM, Gateway 2000, and Micron have all introduced DVD-equipped systems.

All DVD-ROM drives will be able to read the current library of CD-ROM programs, and software titles that require large amounts of disc space, such as multimedia encyclopedias, will likely be re-released in the new format by year's end. Users will also be able to play movies on DVD-video discs with subtitles in different languages, add parental ratings controls, or provide control over frame viewing angles, if the appropriate hardware is included.

DVD-ROM has taken longer to roll out in part because of compatibility issues with other formats, O'Reilly says. But by late 1998 there will be a significant number of systems with the new drives, he believes.