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. DVD-ROMs look like CDs, but they hold far more information, anywhere from 4.7GB to 17GB, compared with a CD's 650MB. But DVD is more than just higher capacity, which is partly why things get so complicated. DVD is a critical element of PC/TV convergence, since it's a way to distribute movies with extended features such as user-selectable camera angles and multiple language support.
Also, like CD's, there are writeable and rewriteable variations coming.
DVD is just starting to make a significant impact on the market. Estimates vary from about 600,000 to 1,000,000 console players ("living room" boxes used strictly to play movies) sold in the United States through the end of 1998. So far, the number of DVD drives in PCs is far smaller.
DVD technology can handle one or two layers of data per disc side. That makes for four sub varieties of DVD-ROM, the read-only version of this technology: DVD5 (single side, single layer) with a 4.7GB capacity; DVD9 (single side, dual layer), 8.5GB; DVD10 (dual side, single layer), 9.4GB; and DVD18 (dual side, dual layer), 17GB. With all these competing standards, a group has been formed to come...