Commentary: CES and MavWorld Converge on Desktop DVD
Posted Mar 1, 2001

During the first week of January each year, two different trade shows—the Consumer Electronics Show and MacWorld—open their doors to seemingly quite different crowds. However, this year the two shows crossed paths with some exciting news for DVD creation and, ultimately, the DVD industry.

First, at CES—although it was hidden away in the 1394/FireWire technology pavilion rather than a bold company booth—Compaq demonstrated a newly announced bundle that will create a complete home video DVD authoring station. The MyMovieSTUDIO Presario 7000 will feature Intel Pentium 4 processors (starting at 1.3gHz) and will include Pinnacle System's StudioDV video editing software with FireWire capture card, Sonic Solution's DVDit! DVD authoring software, and Pioneer's new DVR-103 DVD-R/CD-RW burner.

While each of these products will be available individually, Compaq is going beyond a simple boxing of parts. Naturally, Compaq will include complete manuals for each separate software package, but also wisely plans to include a unified QuickStart manual that walks the user through the complete process of moving video from the camcorder to a DVD disc. It will show how to capture and edit video in StudioDV, teach how the resulting file can be converted to MPEG video and authored with DVDit!, then burned to DVD disc image in the Pioneer drive to create a disc that will play in consumer DVD players. Best of all, Compaq's price for an entire system starts at $2,399, lower than the price of the components sold separately.

At his opening keynote to the MacWorld faithful just a few days later, Steve Jobs announced that in an "industry first," Apple would be bundling the same Pioneer drive in the top 733mHz version of its new G4 computer. Jobs calls it the Apple "SuperDrive" for its ability to create both DVD-R, CD-R, and CD-RW discs, but it's the same Pioneer DVR-103 announced by Compaq for its Presario. An anonymous Apple public relations representative rationalized that the "industry first" was that Apple hadn't ever bundled such a drive before; however, competing speculation suggests that Apple's anticipated February release would beat Compaq's March release to market. Apple's configured price will be $3,499.

Yet, Steve Jobs is never one to let a few details stand in the way of a good line, and in this case neither should we. What Apple and Compaq are doing is really quite extraordinary for DVD creation and adoption. Compaq has assembled independent parts while Apple has built and bundled native Mac applications, integrated with the operating systems. Apple has also gone one step further by offering certified blank DVD media to consumers for just $10 each.

For Apple, the video capturing and editing software piece will be either its very popular consumer iMovie II or the professional Final Cut Pro, both existing tools. The DVD authoring solution, however, is brand new. iDVD is a direct result of Apple's acquisition of Astarte, former makers of DVDirector, last spring and pairs Astarte's significant DVD expertise with Apple's interface design skills. The result is a very straightforward, drag-and-drop interface targeting home video users, but with a very powerful DVD engine in the background. Unfortunately, at this initial release, iDVD will be bundled free with the SuperDrive-enabled G4 733mHz but not available for separate download or purchase. However, that will likely change over time.

Even better for professionals, Apple hasn't restricted Astarte's engineers to lowest common denominator authoring tools, and has announced DVD Studio Pro ($995), the effective rebirth of Astarte's DVDirector for Macintosh. Combined with Final Cut Pro and the SuperDrive burner, DVD Studio Pro completes a sub-$5,500 professional DVD authoring system that includes Apple's most powerful desktop computer.

Ultimately, you can take your pick of Windows or Mac. With these announcements and Pioneer's new affordable burner, both Compaq and Apple are reaching something of a perceived Holy Grail of the home video market and are opening the door to personal DVD creation. There's no question of the success of DVD players in this country for movie rentals, but home DVD burning and distribution of personal video have the potential to exponentially increase the use of the format, both at home and in business.