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New DVD format announced

The recordable format is aimed at creating DVD titles.

A recordable format from the DVD Forum will help the producers of multimedia software bring content to the mass market, but technology that consumers can afford isn't in the cards.

The DVD Forum, an industry consortium, has announced a new format called DVD-R which can be used to make DVD titles. The technology records data once and allows storage of up to 3.95GB of information on a disk.

The DVD-R format differs from DVD-RAM, another recordable DVD format promoted by the DVD Forum, in that DVD-RAM can re-record over information, as someone can do with a VCR tape. Also, DVD-R is not seen as a mass-market technology, while DVD-RAM is (again like the VCR).

Both formats permit users to read data from both DVD-Video and DVD-ROM discs.

Mary Bourdon, optical storage analyst for Dataquest, says DVD-R will mostly find use in preauthoring systems costing between $12,000 and $17,000 dollars. "It's an important step for content providers because it's extremely expensive to create pre-release masters to test games right now," Bourdon says.

In other words, though DVD-R drives aren't likely to be a consumer product, they will be essential to those who are producing DVD-ROM and DVD-Video disks.

"This is a stepping stone to production of saleable products. Once you have a standard you have multiple sources who can supply tools to the production community...The more tools developers have at affordable prices, the easier and faster you get the content flowing," says Gary Schultz, president of Multimedia Research Group.

The DVD Forum is an industry consortium consisting of companies such as Sony, Philips Electronics, Matsushita Electric, Toshiba, and Hitachi.

The new recordable format shows an apparent willingness on the part of member companies to continue to work on technologies which can help popularize DVD drives, in spite of some recent disagreements.

Sony and Philips along with Hewlett-Packard have said they are developing an alternative to DVD-RAM called DVD+RW, which will compete with the DVD-RAM format previously agreed upon by DVD Forum members. The three companies have said they think their technology will more readily gain acceptance in the marketplace.

Both DVD-RAM and DVD+RW drives are expected to be on the market by the end of the year, but Dataquest's Bourdon doubts that the companies will be able to hit those targets. "They would like us to believe they are on track but until they do [release products], its just talk," Bourdon says.