The DVD+RW Alliance, including HP, Philips, Sony and Ricoh, displayed a united front yesterday at the CeBit tradeshow in promoting its standards for DVD+RW (DVD rewritable) for PCs and video recorders.

The group also announced DVD+RW/+R (rewritable/recordable) products from some of its members, including those mentioned above.

"Our commitment is to delivering standards that are easy to use, such as DVD+RW/+R. DVD+R represents the next evolutionary step in the DVD+RW format as the best choice for video and data storage," said John Spofford, vice president and general manager for HP's consumer entertainment solution division and chairman of the DVD+RW Alliance.

The DVD+RW/+R combination drives let users create custom CDs and DVDs from one drive. The DVD+RW/+R format also begins to address the serious issue of storage with new technologies such as optical disc authoring software, which allows for editing directly on DVD+RW discs, bypassing the PC's hard drive, Spofford said.

DVD+RW is also backed by a variety of vendors such as Dell and Thomson, but faces competition from another format, the DVD-RW standard, which is being pushed by the DVD Forum, including Pioneer and other companies.

The DVD Forum has published its own standard specification for DVD and rewritable formats such as DVD-RW. DVD+RW is a competing system and not an official DVD Forum format.

Frank Simonis, commercial director at Philips' optical storage division, acknowledged the competition between the standards but rejected the idea that one overarching standard could be created by blending the existing standards.

"As for today, two standards do exist, but to merge them would create a third standard and won't have consumer benefits. We do not believe that there is a format war going on. Any confusion on the user end is very limited, we believe," Simonis said.

According to Simonis, by the end of the year, there will be 160 million playback devices on the market, the majority of which will be compatible with DVD+RW.

What's coming up?

Alliance members laid out various plans for releasing DVD+RW/+R products with the ability to store up to 4.7GB:

  • HP expects to ship its HP DVD Writer 200i internal drive in April. Its external version, the HP DVD Writer dvd200e should begin shipping in May. Expect pricing of around £500.

  • Philips is due to ship its combination DVD+RW/+R PC drive, the DVDRW228, in Europe in April. Expect to pay around £550.

    Philips says it will also be shipping its 'living room DVD+RW/+R recorders' — the DVDR980 for about £800 and the DVDR985 for approximately £870— around the same time.

  • Fujitsu Siemens confirmed it has begun including DVD+RW drives from Philips in its entire line of Scaleo computers.

  • Sony's second-generation, 4.7GB DVD+RW/+R drives, which can write on DVD+RW, DVD+R, CD-RW and CD-R media and includes bundled software, are due to ship soon — May for the internal (around £500) and June for the external (a little bit more).

    Most of Sony's products come from Ricoh anyway, though Sony is currently working on its own DVD+RW product.

  • Ricoh will ship the MP5125A, its internal DVD+RW/+R combination drive in the third quarter for an estimated price of €650, a spokesman said.

  • Verbatim said it will began shipping its DataLine Plus DVD+R discs this month, for around £9. "What we are really waiting for is the hardware products to ship. That's what we need in order for this to take off," said a spokesperson for the company.