The future of home television is at a crossroads with new technologies available in every direction. Will recordable DVD replace the home VCR? Will HDTV succeed with consumers? What is affecting the mass rollout of these new technologies?
The DVD story is a classic computer technology tale. All the key elements are there: vaporware, standards wars, compatibility problems, extremely high initial prices, and confusion at every turn. Even the technology's name stirs minor debate. Some claim it stands for Digital Versatile Disc, others say it means Digital Video Disc, and still others claim it's not an acronym at all.
In essence, DVD is simply the next evolutionary step from CD-ROM. ...view middle of the document...
This group calls itself the DVD Forum.
The DVD Forum is a group of powerful electronics companies and content owners who have agreed to work together to define specifications for DVD (without governmental intervention). Unfortunately each company has vested interests in DVD advancing and developing along lines that serve their interests best, and all want to dictate the standards for the next generation of compact disc.
The technical specifications of the format are primarily chosen based upon what patents are owned by whom, not on technical superiority, and the decisions made by the DVD Forum are as rife with mutual back-scratching and calling in of favors as those of a Senate subcommittee. As a result, the technical specifications for DVD formats are not arrived at by an objective evaluation of what will work best, what will sell, what will provide a smooth migration path, or even what the DVD Technical Working Groups recommend. They are decided on self-interest, which means financial gain for one party and resulting financial loss for another. Factions within the Forum are determined to promote the interests of one member over another, or a group of members over another group of members.
So far, the majority of the Forum members have been motivated by a single purpose in this regard, to avoid paying for patents owned by Philips and Sony, who have profited immensely from existing compact disc technology. Not coincidentally, many of those patents are also the ones that could enable compatibility with existing technology.
Sony and Philips, as licensers of patents used in DVD technology, need close ties with the Forum. But if Sony and Philips wish to exploit their patents by developing an alternative format voted down by the other eight Forum companies, they are branded as pariahs.
The most prominent names in the CD-Recordable and CD-Rewritable hardware market are Sony, Yamaha, Philips, Ricoh, and Hewlett-Packard. Other DVD Forum members are minor CD-R/RW players, if players at all. Given this knowledge, it's not surprising that Philips, Sony, Hewlett-Packard, Ricoh, and Yamaha, along with media manufacturer Mitsubishi, would prefer a rewritable DVD format that builds on existing technology and smoothes the transition to a new one.
It is also no mystery that the architects of the DVD Forum's DVD-RAM format find this threatening. They are not contenders in the CD-R and CD-RW arena, so there is no reward for them in promoting compatibility with existing popular formats, but enormous incentive to abandon them in favor of their own technology patents. The contention over whose patents to use is one of the many things delaying delivery of DVD; and with every delay in DVD, the period in which existing technologies can thrive is extended as the installed base increases, making compatibility more important, and opening the window of opportunity for new formats not subject to DVD Forum approval to reach the market.
Still, DVD video will blow...