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Panasonic, Philips, and Pioneer Set DVD Recording Standards at CES 2002
Posted Mar 1, 2002 Print Version     Page 1of 1

March 2002 | Over the years, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has frequently served as a sounding board for companies to debate industry formats, try to gain support for their "team," and convince the general buying public that their product is the best of breed. This year did not disappoint as the duel over DVD recording formats raged on. Companies like Panasonic, Pioneer, and Philips have been talking about their writable DVD drives (and the inevitable format conflicts) for years, and the topic has certainly heated up in the past few months, as the long-promised DVD+RW has finally been unleashed on the public. As these industry leaders tried to stake their claim in this market, the debate over DVD-RAM, DVD+RW, and DVD-RW took center stage at CES.

True to its name as a consumer show, CES kept the focus on the consumer side of DVD recording, which means living room, not desktop. A number of set-top DVD recorders were demonstrated at the show, all of them offering editing, thumbnail view navigation, MPEG-2 picture quality, and apparent ease of use among their features. Pioneer was showing off its Elite DVR-7000, which supports the DVD-R/RW format (already approved by the DVD Forum), and has been retailing at $2000 since November 2001. Panasonic was showing its second-generation DMR-E20 recorder, which supports the DVD-RAM and DVD-R formats and is expected to be available in June for $1,500. Philips unveiled the DVDR985, a second-generation recorder, just before CES opened this year. Philips is one of four initial suppliers of drives based on the DVD+R/RW format—the others are HP, Sony, and Ricoh—which, unlike DVD-R/RW and DVD-RAM, are not yet approved by the DVD Forum. (Their groundswell of support comes from the ever-growing DVD+RW Alliance.) Philips' recorder is slated for spring release at a $999 MSRP.

Marc Harmsen, Philips' product marketing manager of DVD recorders, says that although the DVD forum has not yet approved +RW, Philips chose this format because it "offers compatibility without compromise." Harmsen went on to say that +RW has "the highest level of backward compatibility, which offers even greater appeal." Philips plans to launch an aggressive campaign this year aimed at educating consumers on the benefits of the +RW and +R formats. "This is the year Philips wins the format war," Harmsen stated confidently.

CES also featured early demos of the much-hyped blue laser technology that manufacturers say will play an important role in the future of DVD recording. Sony, Philips, and Pioneer all seem to agree that the next key innovation in DVD recording will deliver recorders capable of receiving HD signals. (The first prototype blue laser-based HD DVD decks were showcased at CES 2000.) Pioneer product specialist Rolf Hawkins says, "We expect this technology to become the industry standard." Yet several unresolved issues remain. Pioneer admits that the DVDR Blue prototype they demonstrated at CES required a full cabinet of behind-the-scenes devices to function, but notes that that signifies a slight sleight-of-hand reduction from last year's demo, which required two full cabinets. According to Pioneer, consumers will not be able to purchase a DVD recorder capable of receiving HD signals in the very near future because, as Hawkins says, "Manufactures may still need a couple of years for miniaturization."

As varied as exhibitors, such as Panasonic, Pioneer, and Philips, were in their views on formats and future technologies, the benefits of DVD recording proved to be the unified message at CES this year. Company representatives agreed that manufacturers and the DVD Forum will need time to agree on an industry standard, but they all stressed that the future of DVD recording will be worth the wait.

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