It may well be the insistence of the Hollywood film studios that the new DVD-Ram disk standard is too short to record a full movie that has precipitated the latest standards war. It comes as no surprise that the consortium of major manufacturers backing the DVD-Ram drive standard has collapsed after Sony, Philips and Hewlett Packard?s declaration that they are going it alone. Senior figures in both camps have been showing the tension for months and the inevitable has happened.
The Hollywood studios are terrified of digital piracy. Just as Microsoft can often go completely over the top in its protectionist attitude to its technology, Hollywood has reacted hysterically to the possible piracy of its films. The reality is that most users just want to watch movies at home that sound and look as good as they do in the cinema. So the Sony-Philips-HP axis is developing a consumer-friendly 3Gb drive as Matsushita and others develop a 2.6Gb one.
I know which side I would back ? Sony. Quite simply, Sony is saying that its design will cram 3Gb of data on each side of a double-sided recordable DVD and the opposition camp is saying that its DVD-Ram standard will take 2.6Gb ? not quite enough to take a Hollywood blockbuster. It?s just paranoia about the consumer from the studio bosses (those friendly, cuddly types) ? people who are more worried about their own profits than how a manufacturer explains to its buyers why it hasn?t provided something useful and which falls short of consumer expectations in a big way at the earliest stage.
So I understand Sony and Philips? decision. Forget for a moment that both Sony and Philips have, in the past, backed losers ? Sony with Betamax and Philips? with the rewritable video disk. This time they have the backing of HP ? not a company to readily stand behind a loser.
I?ve had my fill of standards bodies. And so, I notice this week, has Chris Stone, founder of the Object Management Group, who has jumped the sinking ship to join Novell. Standards groups fulfil one basic purpose ? they stop dozens of similar products clogging up the channels. But at the end of the day the market will win the war. And the market is full of consumers who will hold out for the best DVD standard. If the products don?t meet their wishes they just will not buy them. This time Sony and Philips have backed a winner.
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