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Pioneer DVD Device to Record in 2 Formats

May 19, 2003|Jon Healey | Times Staff Writer

Hoping to spur demand by reducing consumers' confusion about DVD recording, a growing number of consumer-electronics companies are shifting to DVD recorders that can handle both of the leading formats.

Today, Pioneer Electronics Inc. of Long Beach, a division of Tokyo-based Pioneer Corp., is expected to announce a new DVD recorder that supports not only DVD-R and DVD-RW formats but also DVD+R and DVD+RW ones. The "RW" means the discs can be erased and rerecorded many times, and the "R" designation means they can be recorded only once.

There are only minor differences between the "-" (or "dash") format and the "+" (or "plus") format. What primarily separates the two is who owns the intellectual property and who gets paid licensing fees.

Pioneer's announcement is significant because the company launched the -R and -RW formats, and it has been a top supplier of DVD recorders to retailers and computer manufacturers. The new recorder is due in June, with a suggested price of $329.

Sony Corp. already made the leap to dual-format recorders, introducing one last fall. And Plextor Corp. of Fremont, Calif., which makes "plus" recorders for computers, has said it plans to shift to a dual-format version.

DVD players have sold at a record pace since their introduction in the U.S. in 1997, and more than 35% of all households have one. But DVD recorders have gotten off to a much slower start, in part because of the battle between formats.

In addition to the "dash" and "plus" discs, there also is the re-recordable DVD-RAM format pushed by Matsushita Electronics Inc., maker of Panasonic equipment.

A device built only for the "plus" format can't record on "dash" or "-RAM" discs, and the same is true for "dash" and "-RAM" devices.

"What we've been told loud and clear is that people need to have a more simple solution in order to get excited about buying a DVD writer," said Andy Parsons, a senior vice president at Pioneer. Bringing out multi-format devices "is the way it needs to go in order to grow the market," he said.

Pioneer has been one of the strongest advocates of the "dash" formats, which were designed to be compatible with most of the DVD players in consumers' homes. Makers of the "plus" formats make the same claims about compatibility, however, making it hard for consumers to choose between the two approaches.

Unlike Sony, Pioneer is taking the dual-format approach only with its DVD recorders for computers. The company makes a line of stand-alone DVD recorders designed for capturing television programs and home movies, and those will continue to support only the "dash" formats, Parsons said.

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