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DVD market roiled by competing products

The promising storage and playback technology is being wrenched by competing interests, which are confusing consumers.

Once it stood for digital versatile disc. Then it became digital video disc.

But in the past three months, DVD has taken on a new meaning for manufacturers, retailers, and consumers trying to sort through rapidly shifting technological specifications, business alliances, and promises of innovation followed by frustrating delays. The new technology might as well stand for deeply vexing divisions.

This week, consumers began to feel the effects of that chaos. People who bought DVD players were angered to learn that new formats could make their purchases obsolete. As a result, even though DVD players and movie titles have hit the market, there's still little sign of an industry standard--and consumers aren't sure what to do.

A ten-manufacturer consensus on the DVD-RAM specification started unraveling last month when first a group led by Sony and then NEC struck out on their own with technologies the companies claimed would far surpass DVD-RAM's storage capacity. Their substitute products will be incompatible with DVD technology. Then this week, the issue took on a new wrinkle with the advent of Divx, a technology to debut in consumer video rentals that will not be compatible with DVD players now on the market.

Few doubt that before long, VHS and floppies will go the way of the LP and 8-track tape. But exactly what flavor of DVD will fill the void remains to be seen. Here's a look at the most recent news.

DVD owners dis Divx
By Jim Davis
Owners of DVD players are up in arms over news that the Divx format could make current DVD hardware obsolete.

Hitachi weighs in on DVD-RAM
By Stephanie Miles
Hitachi's offering in the splintering DVD-RAM market has a storage capacity of 4.7GB, almost doubling the amount proposed to date.

Zenith trumpets Divx for DVD
By Jim Davis
The new DVD-like technology could reduce the threat of pirated content and make playback of high-quality movies more affordable for consumers.

Disney enters DVD market
By Reuters
Its entry, timed for the holiday season, will give a boost to the emerging market.

NEC plans 5.2GB disk
By Michael Kanellos
The company will market a disk system with greater storage capacity than the proposed DVD-RAM media.

Sony abandons DVD-RAM format
By Jim Davis and Michael Kanellos
Partnering with HP and Philips, Sony is abandoning the format agreed upon by major electronic equipment makers this past spring.

DVDs: New digital domain
While similar in form and in many functions to CDs, DVDs could change virtually all facets of home entertainment, from picture clarity to multimedia capability. But will it?