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DVD-Audio standard due by spring

An industry standard for DVD-Audio could be wrapped up as early as next spring.

An industry standard for DVD-Audio could be wrapped up as early as next spring, according to industry sources.

Last month, a DVD-Audio working group presented a draft to recording industry representatives, and a final draft is expected by the end of December, according to a report in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Japan's largest business daily.

As a storage technology, DVD far surpasses the CD in capacity, going up to 4.7GB of data (and sometimes more), as compared to 650MB for a CD. Like the CD, DVD can be used in numerous ways--read-only memory, read-and-write, audio, and video--but manufacturers have not always been able to agree on a common standard for each usage, or format. Agreement is important because consumers are unlikely to buy DVD players or discs if they aren't interoperable with competing products.

The current lack of DVD-Audio standard, as well as the time needed for manufacturing and product roll out, means that DVD-Audio software and players aren't expected to reach the market until late 1998 or early 1999.

The process of reaching a DVD-Audio standard is not expected to stir tensions within the industry, unlike the highly disputatious standard for DVD-RAM, a rewritable technology that would let users record and re-record data. In August, Sony, Philips Electronics, and Hewlett-Packard announced they were working on a new DVD-RAM technology, effectively abandoning the proposed standard hammered out earlier in the year and sending the market into disarray. Subsequently, several more manufacturers have announced competing technologies.

Another format, DVD-Video, is also embroiled in controversy because a complementary technology called Divx presents the spectre that DVD-Video players bought today may not be compatible with titles introduced tomorrow. Divx is intended to strengthen protection against piracy, but may prove costly and burdensome for consumers.

A provisional DVD-Audio standard, known as a specification, calls for DVD-Audio to be able to record not only music but also characters and still and moving pictures.

The DVD-Audio's working group comprises ten members, including Matsushita and its JVC affiliate and Sony.