Demonstration of DVD+RW Drives at CeBIT Ignites the Latest Format Wars

Last week, Hewlett-Packard, Mitsubishi, Philips, Ricoh, Sony, and Yamaha demonstrated the read and write capabilities of a prototype DVD-ReWritable (DVD+RW) drive at CeBIT '98. This was the first public demonstration of the write capabilities of the DVD+RW format, which has sparked controversy in recordable DVD circles. Product prototypes based on the DVD+RW specification are expected to reach US markets by this fall.

A competing, noncompatible recordable DVD format, DVD-RAM, has already been announced by Hitachi and Matsushita, who, along with Toshiba, plan to ship products in the near future.

The DVD+RW drives will provide users with 3GB of removable data-storage capacity and will use MultiRead technology to read CD-ROM, CD-R, and CD-RW media. The technology, jointly developed by HP, Philips, and Sony, is based on the Phase-Change ReWritable format specifications adopted by the announcing companies.

The six participating companies represent more than 75% of the CD-Recordable and CD-ReWritable worldwide market, according to Santa Clara Consulting, a California-based consulting group.

With the growing trend toward multimedia documents, which require large amounts of disc space, recordable DVD will offer the ability to create, share, store, and access these content-rich documents easily using a single disc.

According to a press release from the six companies, the DVD+RW specification is based on input from a wide range of sources, including end-users, PC manufacturers, CD- and DVD-ROM drive manufacturers, media manufacturers, and software developers. The DVD specification is designed to offer larger data-storage and distribution markets a smooth migration path from CD to DVD, preserving customers' existing CD- and DVD-ROM investments.

The DVD+RW format does not require a cartridge or caddy. However, it does provide specifications for an optional CD-compatible caddy for additional media protection, if such protection is needed in harsh-use customer environments such as auto-repair shops or emergency rooms. The DVD+RW specification is an open format and has been submitted to ECMA, an international standards body, for review and adoption.