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Hitachi shows off convergence hardware

The company's vision of multimedia convergence between consumer devices and PCs takes the shape of a DVD-RAM system, a camcorder, and a television.

ATLANTA--Hitachi's vision of multimedia convergence between consumer devices and PCs took shape at Spring Comdex today.

Among the next-generation hardware from Hitachi: a prototype DVD-RAM system, a digital camcorder that can store 20 minutes of full-motion video on a PC card, and a 27-inch television that can double as a computer monitor.

DVD-RAM discs allow users to both record and read data. Standard DVD-ROM technology only permits reading, or playback, of data. Other DVD disc developers are Matsushita, Toshiba, and Sony. A DVD-RAM drive has been developed that can hold up to 2.4GB of data on a disc; that's roughly four times the capacity of CD-ROM discs.

Hitachi demonstrated a prototype drive that can store up to 5GB on a disc, and says it hopes to replace floppy drives and CD-ROM drives with one DVD-RAM drive in future PCs. No standard for recording in the new format has been settled yet, but a Hitachi spokesperson expects the standard by the end of July or August.

The company expects to start shipping samples of the GF-1000 drives by July. They should be available by late 1997 or early 1998, depending on when a DVD-RAM standard is settled upon. Price is expected to be under $1000.

Hitachi's MPEGCam digital camcorder, which is smaller than a conventional camcorder, uses MPEG real-time video compression technology to capture full-motion video or still pictures at 352-by-240 pixels, according to Hitachi. The typical PC monitor is 640-by-480 pixels.

A PC Card hard drive is used to store data, and the information can later be transferred to a PC through an interface kit.

Hitachi says the camera does compression and decompression as well as the playback of video via a single chip. Normally, a PC user who wants to produce a video needs the camera as well as a video capture card for editing. The new camera eliminates the need for the video capture card because data can be transmitted directly to the computer via the built-in MPEG encoder/decoder.

The camera is available through select retailers for around $2,500.

For about $800, Hitachi is offering a 27-inch stand-alone television that can also serve as a computer monitor. As a monitor, the unit offers 640-by-480 dpi resolution and has features that allow improved readability of text. Hitachi, which plans to introduce a 36-inch version of the TV monitor, says it is seeking to distribute the product through OEM partnerships. Compaq and Thomson electronics have made that sort of an arrangement for the recently introduced PC Theater convergence product.

On a bigger scale, a New York-based company called ProjectaVision says it will soon start selling a 60-inch monitor/television that is significantly less bulky than comparable rear-projection televisions. The unit has a projection unit that can be removed and used as a stand-alone device for use in presentations or movie screenings. The company expects to begin selling the unit within the next three months at an expected price of $8,000 to $10,000.