DVD standards have been a source of contention for the past 4 years, and the battle rages on. Most people agree that the writable and the rewritable versions of the format will be primary, yet they dispute how to establish standards for those formats. The DVD Forum, an industry consortium based in Tokyo, has grappled with standards issues but has so far failed to resolve them.
DVDs can pack data tracks tightly together and can hold up to 8 hours of video. Although the DVD specification requires that players and drives read dual-layer discs, you must still flip dual-sided DVDs because no players are yet capable of reading both sides.
Vendor opinions differ widely about what the optimal version of DVD will be for the evolving market. And CD-ROMs are still strong in entertainment and business storage applications. Although DVDs offer larger capacities, CD-ROMs benefit from lower prices for both drives and media. As data storage needs grow and software program sizes escalate, DVD-ROM drives will be much more commonplace in computers.
Proponents of DVD technology predict that 170 million consumer DVD video players and DVD-ROM drives will be in use in computers by the end of 2001. Although the predicted numbers might be high, it's fairly clear that DVDs are here to stay and that they have gained critical mass. Several versions of writable DVD are either already on the market or soon to be released. To clarify their differences, I've listed the major formats below:
The biggest problem in the near future is that none of the writable formats is fully compatible with the others or with existing drives and players. Until standards are worked out, incompatibility will continue to be a problem. One step in the right direction is the DVD Forum's DVD Multi logo, whose presence will guarantee compatibility with DVD-R, DVD-RW, and DVD-RAM. A Multi player will be able to read all three formats, and a DVD Multi recorder will be able to record using all three.
Analysts predicted that DVD would take off at unheard-of speeds—and, in fact, it has sold faster than videotape, CD-ROM, and laser disc. And in terms of revenue per unit sold, DVD has become the most successful consumer electronics entertainment product ever produced. If industry members work together to merge some of the DVD formats and make them interoperate, all of us will benefit.