May 18, 2003 7:00 PM PDT
Pioneer broadens DVD support in drives
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The Long Beach, Calif.-based electronics maker will announce Monday that its sixth-generation drive, the DVR-A06, will arrive in the United States in June. The drive will retail for $329 and support DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, CD-R and CD-RW. The DVD+RW format includes support for DVD+R media. The DVR-A06 will be for use inside PCs; an external version, which can be connected to a PC via a cable, will likely follow in three months to four months, said Andy Parsons, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Pioneer Electronics.
"The market has been confused," said Parsons, referring to the confusion the incompatible DVD rewritable formats may have caused in consumers. "We're hoping that by changing our strategy, we can help grow the market and ease customer confusion."
Pioneer, along with other drive and media manufacturers, has been competing to establish rival--and incompatible--formats as the industry standard. Part of the problem for the DVD rewritable market has been that some of the companies lining up against each other have significant clout in the market, such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard versus Apple Computer and Panasonic, leading to a war of attrition of sorts. The companies have chosen sides behind two competing industry groups: the DVD+RW Alliance and the DVD Forum, with the alliance promoting the DVD+RW format and the forum advocating the DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD-RAM formats.
Pioneer brought DVD-R/RW drives to market in early 2001, more than six months ahead of DVD+R/RW drives. The company quickly garnered momentum from the DVD-R/RW format, which Apple and Compaq Computer had started shipping in consumer computers.
The two top PC manufacturers, Dell and HP, however, opted for DVD+R/RW, and Microsoft endorsed the standard for future versions of Windows. This support stacked the deck in favor of DVD+R/RW, analysts say.
A number of DVD formats are vying for consumers' attention. Here is a quick rundown.
Record, erase repeatedly. Good for data storage. Discs not compatible with most consumer DVD players.
Record once. Good for video storage. Discs compatible with most recent consumer DVD players.
Record, erase repeatedly. Good for video storage. Discs compatible with most recent consumer DVD players.
Record, erase repeatedly. Good for data and video storage. Supports read and write DVD+R feature.
Gradually, however, companies are crossing the lines and choosing to support more than their favored formats. Sony Electronics made the move in late 2001 when it came out with a dual-format DVD drive, which supported the DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD+RW formats. More recently, Microsoft said it would support DVD+RW, DVD-RW, DVD-R and DVD-RAM in future versions of its desktop operating system after announcing last year that it would support DVD+RW in its OS. The software giant already supported DVD-RAM in Windows.
Parsons said that Pioneer is not joining the DVD+RW Alliance but is paying royalties to the group to use the DVD+RW format. He would not comment on the amount of those royalties.
Pioneer's drive supports 4x DVD+R, 2.4x DVD+RW, 4x DVD-R, 2x DVD-RW, 16x CD-R and 10x CD-RW.
Pioneer is a drive supplier for Apple, one of the early supporters of the DVD-R format. Parsons said it is up to Pioneer customers whether they adopt the new drive but added that the drive is a "superset of our products."
"I have to believe they are being subjected to the same customer confusion calls and it only takes two to three calls per consumer customer to wipe out margins" made from the drives, Parsons said.
Apple representatives could not be reached for comment.