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New drives rewrite HP DVD+RW line

Hewlett-Packard announces two new DVD+RW drives that aim to address one of the major criticisms of the DVD rewritable and recordable formats: compatibility.

Hewlett-Packard announced on Monday two new DVD+RW drives that aim to address one of the major criticisms of the DVD rewritable and recordable formats: compatibility.

DVD+RW is one of several formats competing to be the standard for rewritable and recordable DVD drives and media. The others include DVD+R, DVD-R (DVD-recordable), DVD-RW (DVD-rewritable) and DVD-RAM.

One of the key issues in this donnybrook among the format backers is compatibility with the large number of DVD-ROM drives for PCs, stand-alone players and media that are currently in the market.

The significance of HP's announcement on Monday is that its two new DVD+RW drives--the dvd200i and dvd200e--will support DVD+R, which has a higher degree of compatibility with DVD-ROM drives than DVD+RW. This is intended to let buyers of the new HP drives record video, digital images and audio onto discs and have them play on more DVD-ROM drives and players than they would have without DVD+R support.

While HP is attempting to address the issue of compatibility for its DVD+RW drives by supporting the DVD+R format, just how many DVD-ROM drives they will be compatible with is not clear.

"Compatibility is definitely the most crucial issue that DVD+RW supporters face, and HP's announcement is a good sign of improvement," Gartner analyst Mary Craig said. "But it's not clear by how much."

Manufacturers would have to test their drives and media with all the drives in the market to back up their claims about the compatibility of their formats with DVD-ROM drives, Craig said.

Manufacturers are looking to build off the popularity of CD-R (CD-recordable) and CD-RW (CD-rewritable) drives and media, which took off as formats because consumers were recording songs and video onto CD-R and CD-RW discs.

"We see this as the next generation in storage for desktops," HP product manager Dean Sanderson said.

Sanderson added that these drives are compatible with CD-R and CD-RW media.

DVD discs can hold about 4.7GB of data, which is approximately seven times more than CD-R and CD-RW discs. Because of the higher capacity, manufacturers, analysts and disc makers expect the recordable and rewritable DVD market to grow tremendously in the coming years.

Research firm IDC, expects DVD writer shipments to grow from 3.9 million units this year to 35 million in 2005.

HP has developed a utility for DVD+RW drives that will let consumers change a disc setting to increase its compatibility with DVD-ROM drives, Sanderson said. The utility will be included with dvd200i and dvd200e drives. Users of HP's first internal DVD+RW drive, the dvd100i, will be able to download the utility from the company's Web site.

The dvd200i, HP's second-generation internal DVD+RW drive, is expected in stores by mid-April for $499.

HP's first external DVD+RW drive, the dvd200e, is due in May for $599. It will connect with PCs using either an IEEE 1394 or USB 2.0 port.

HP is currently selling DVD+RW discs for $10.99 a piece, or in a three pack for $25.99. HP DVD+R discs will be available in April for $5.99 each, or $27.99 for five.