Tech conglom in harmony about writable DVD format

TOKYO — The 10 companies that developed digital videodisc (DVD) technology said Monday they have agreed on a second-generation random access memory (RAM) format called the 1.0 version. The new format is for recordable DVDs.

The company grouping, known as the DVD Forum, in April reached agreed on a 0.9 format version for DVD-RAM drives. DVDs are being billed as replacements for videocassettes, CDs and CD-ROMs because they offer much greater storage capacity.

“Establishment of the DVD-RAM disc format clears the way for the commercialization not only of DVD-RAM drives, but also of DVD-ROM drives, which can play back DVD-RAM discs,” the forum said in a statement.

Toshiba Corp., the chair of the DVD Forum, said last week they would have DVD-RAM drives with the 1.0 format version out on the consumer market in December.

DVD-ROM (read only memory) is a nonrecordable disc. The DVD Forum and a group of companies that includes Sony Corp., Philips Electronics NV and Hewlett-Packard are battling over a rewritable disc format that offers compatibility with DVD-ROM drives.

Sony and Philips are both members of the DVD Forum, and Sony said it will not make equipment for the forum’s 1.0 DVD-RAM format.

The forum said their 1.0 DVD-RAM version has a single-sided storage capacity of 2.6 gigabits. It can be used with the DVD-ROM drives with a simple modification of equipment.

They also said they have applied for approval of the new format to the European Computer Manufacturer’s Assn., an international standards body.

Earlier in the month, the Sony, Philips, HP group said they asked the same standards board to approve their format for a12-centimeter optical disc. The rewritable disc proposed by the three is incompatible with the DVD-RAM format version 1.0.

The trio said their optical disc offers better compatibility with DVD-ROM drives and also has a higher storage capacity, at 3.0 GB per side.

DVDs promise to be a major consumer item for electronics companies. Japanese industry estimates say that by 2000, the market for DVDs should be about $25.6 billion, with rewritable DVDs accounting for 20% to 30% of the total.

The 10 companies in the group are Toshiba Corp., Sony Corp., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., Pioneer Electric Corp., Victor Co. of Japan, Mitsubishi Electric Co., Hitachi Ltd., Philips Electronics NV, Thomson SA and Time Warner Inc.

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