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Small firm ahead in DVD-RAM race

A small company called Hi-Val will beat Hitachi and Toshiba to the punch with plans to ship the first U.S. DVD-RAM upgrade kit.

Hi-Val, a Southern California multimedia company, will beat industry giants like Hitachi and Toshiba to the punch today with plans to ship the first DVD-RAM upgrade kit in the United States.

Hitachi announced last week that it will begin shipping DVD-RAM upgrade kits in Japan on April 15. Toshiba has previously said that it will offer DVD-RAM drives with desktop PCs early this summer.

But Hi-Val will apparently be the first company to ship DVD-RAM in the United States.

DVD-RAM drives allow users to record data onto a disc, erase it, and then re-record on the same disc, similar to the way a VCR or computer disk is used. Each disc holds up to 2.6GB on a single side, far more than a CD's 650MB capacity. DVD-ROMs hold more information, but users cannot record information on them.

Hi-Val says it will ship two versions of the upgrade kit. The first will offer a 2X DVD-RAM drive and playback and recording software. The second kit will also include a wireless option that will allow movies to be played on a television up to 300 feet away from the PC.

Hi-Val's DVD-RAM drive will play and record data on DVD-RAM discs, play DVD-ROM and CD-ROM discs, and CD-R(ecordable) and CD-RW (rewritable) at 20X speed. The drive also works in conjunction with a video camera and video capture card, allowing consumers to record home movies onto DVD-RAM discs.

The DVD-RAM upgrade kit will begin shipping at the end of April, ranging in price from $399 to $599. DVD-RAM discs are expected to cost between $24.95 for 2.6GB discs and $44.95 for double-sided 5.2GB discs.