The PC DVD Wars

Show me the money! Show me the money! Show me the money!

Francis Vale

It increasingly looks like the new PC DVD optical drives are destined to become a hackneyed replay of the VHS/Beta VCR battles. PC DVD format wars are being fought on every front, in every area, between almost everybody imaginable. The tortured history of consumer DVD players serves as ample warning of what's to come for PCs, and, in this instance, DVD's convoluted past may not only be prologue, but also might serve as the afterwards.

That consumer DVD (Digital Versatile Disc) players are even here at all is something of a miracle. DVD is the Hell Spawn of a nasty battle between two rival consumer electronics camps. On one DVD side were Time Warner and its partner Toshiba, who were both aggressively pitching their SD (SuperDisc) format. On the reverse DVD side were the tried and true war horse team of Sony and Philips, both pushing for their MMCD (MultiMedia CD) design. In the end, the two warring sides (reluctantly) joined forces and came up with a common, first generation DVD format. This shotgun marriage would probably not have come about were it not for the intervention of matchmaker IBM. Having missed the boat on CD ROMs, the huge computer maker was not about to let this giant digital container ship set sail in two conflicting directions.

IBM had industry weight in this DVD food fight because it is the acknowledged world leader in very high density laser/digital storage technology. But in particular, Patrick O'Toole, an IBM senior vice president, is the person we have to thank for bringing sanity to this first round of DVD madness. O'Toole got IBM CEO Lou Gerstner to write a letter to all the warring DVD chiefs. Big Lou urged them to adopt the Sony/Philips EFM Plus signal modulation scheme to store the data on the DVD disc. But Lou also said that using EFM Plus on the Toshiba/Warner SD was IBM's preferred method.

The SD design consisted of two 0.6 millimeter discs bonded together, while the MMCD format proposed using a single 1.2 millimeter thick platter. IBM preferred Toshiba's 0.6 mm SD disc because it believed this thinner platter would make it easier to adopt new laser technologies having much shorter wavelengths (like the highly touted blue lasers) when they became commercially available. These new, shorter wavelength lasers will allow tremendous increases in optical storage capacity. (The smaller the DVD information storage pit, the more the storage; the smaller the pit, the shorter the laser wavelength required.) With the thinner .6 mm discs, the likelihood of short wavelength light scattering (resulting in signal attenuation/errors) should be less than when reflected off a deeper 1.2 mm platter. Furthermore, when a light wave front hits the edge of an opaque body, such as an optical disc impurity, the front can be modulated, thereby causing a redistribution of energy within the front. This phenomenon is known as diffraction, and it was believed that the thinner SD discs would ameliorate its negative effects.

So, thanks to IBM, DVD industry unity finally prevailed. However, in the protracted peace making process, the original 5 GB/side/layer capacity of the Toshiba/Warner SD format dropped to 4.7 GB. The cause of the decrease was for reasons of "worst case data reliability." The Sony/Philips 8-16 modulation system -- which is based on the 8-14 EFM (eight to fourteen modulation) scheme used in CDs -- added a bit to the original Toshiba/SD 8-15 modulation system. Sony's 'worst case' extra bit was responsible for 300 MB to suddenly go AWOL.

The first generation DVD players were also designed to be backwards compatible and can play CDs, as well as CD ROM discs. Lastly, this initial DVD format was not recordable; it was for playback only.

At this juncture, it is critical to note that two big time producers of multimedia content, Time Warner and Sony, were also the primary backers of DVD No surprise, then, that they both had huge vested interests in not only controlling the new media format, but also in making sure that their valued content didn't 'escape' via high quality recordable devices. This potential DVD fugue engendered huge amounts of paranoia at Sony and Warner, as well as within the entertainment industry at large. The clinical term for this peculiar form of DVD impairment is "Digital Convergence." And its direct, unhappy consequence is that PC DVD users will pay dearly, both now, and well into the future.

Up until the advent of DVD, if a digital recording device, such as a CD-R, was labeled "consumer" product, it had to have SCMS (Serial Copy Management System) which permitted the making of just one second generation copy off the original master disc. But if the very same CD-R device was destined for the computer "business" market, it got no SCMS. Moreover, the PC CD-R blank had 74 minutes of playing time -- not the time-crippled 60 minutes like its consumer market sibling. The price of consumer CD-R disc blanks also got slugged with "artist compensation" royalties. The entertainment industry logic was that every CD-Recording you made costs Guns & Roses, et al, another nickel (blank cassette & VCR tapes somehow missed this egregious surcharge.) But the CD-R blanks destined for the computer business missed this royalty bullet. In addition, at the behest of the entertainment industry, your solipsistic solons in the US Congress passed anti-SCMS tampering legislation which provides for a cool $1 million dollar fine.

But the tremendous storage capacity of DVD changed the entire copy protection landscape. DVD's ability to store not only bootlegged Nine Inch Nails recordings, but also Disney's Lion King, made the whole Malibu mob sit up and take notice. The entertainment industry collectively harumphed, and said this bifurcated consumer/business scheme had to go. No more silly Solomon splitting of markets. A DVD is a DVD, and SCMS-type protection they all shall get, business computer use or otherwise. In DVD-land, SCMS type schemes have been replaced by CGMS, or Copy Generation Management System (the "scams" rhyming SCMS was probably too much truth in acronym for them). But at least SCMS let you make one first generation copy. However, with CGMS, even that gratuitous single copy gesture was eliminated by the binary tyros.

And they didn't stop at just GCMS. The entertainment paranoids also set out to prevent digital to analog copies from being made off a DVD. Let's say you have a PC with an NTSC video board (which are increasingly common), and a DVD-ROM drive with a movie, or other such H'wood content. You could then pass the digital DVD-ROM bits through the D/A NTSC card, and out onto an analog VCR. You thus could supposedly make a zillion bootleg copies of ID4 via your PC, and sell them from the back of your window-blackened van at the nearest shopping mall. So, in addition to the draconian CGMS copy management, the Malibu Mob demanded that the DVD bits be encrypted. This new crypto-addition to DVD's already crowded alphabet soup is called CSS, or Content Scrambling System. And CSS is the primary reason why DVD-ROM drives were not on computer dealers shelves in the spring of 1997.

Until recently, data encryption was classified under U.S. export laws as being a lethal "munition." Data encryption was treated the same way as if you were exporting fuel-air bombs to Iraq. Recently, the US Dept. of Commerce took over the job of chief crypto-export enforcer from the Defense Dept. But special export licenses are still required, and there remains an ongoing battle between the computer industry and the US government. Many in the former camp view data-crypto export laws as being much too rigid (e.g., the Clipper brouhaha.) Now, whereas DVD is meant to be a world-wide product, the legal and technical complications of CSS for the PC industry become quickly obvious.

Amazingly, this DVD crypto-madness got even madder, as the two primary Japanese companies making the DVD CSS chip sets, Matsushita and Toshiba, dropped the ball. While their special function (and costly) chips are speed whizzes at unscrambling DVD bits, a general purpose computer CPU executing a software-only version of CSS would likely be a box office flop. Sure enough, it turned out that the Matsushita/Toshiba CSS software had even a big Pentium Pro spending more than 100% of its time decrypting a DVD-ROM. Understandably, the PC makers were not pleased.

The obvious solution would be to use the special crypto-chip in all PCs, which would assuredly make Toshiba and Matsushita very happy. But using the special chip sets would add significant costs to the end user. The key to low deployment costs for DVD-ROM drives therefore lay in providing "free" CSS software. So, the PC makers demanded that the software-only CSS decryption scheme be redesigned with much lower CPU overhead. Accordingly, Matsushita/Toshiba went back to the software drawing board. Per some strategic suggestions by IBM (once again, it brings peace to the warring DVD parties), the two Japanese giants found a way. However, even this revised software version of CSS eats up a prodigious amount of CPU cycles (10% - 30%, depending upon CPU). Still in all, half a free loaf was still better than PC buyers eating the cost of the specialized chips.

Incredibly, even with this software-crypto-performance issue somewhat resolved, there were still more problems to come. The PC makers couldn't get a license to use these CSS codes in their new DVD-ROM systems! Matsushita, which is the acting agent for handing out the CSS licenses, was apparently more concerned about selling its crypto-hardware than about OEM licensing the crypto-software. The result was that Matsushita didn't get around to rewriting its hardware-only CSS license to encompass the new software version. Consequently, as of February, 1997, not a single US vendor was able to get a CSS software license. Rather unbelievably, all the PC system vendors busily designing new systems with DVD-ROM drives were now flying blind -- Even mighty Intel was supposedly CSS license-less. This sorry story of delay, delay, delay, goes right back to Hollywood's paranoia. And the ultimate irony? Most everyone in the industry agrees that some determined hacker will quickly find a way to crack the CSS DVD crypto-scheme; which results, naturally, will be posted all over the Internet in a matter of minutes

It should be quite clear by now, that from DVD-ROM's onset it was envisioned as a cross-dresser; acting as both a conduit for entertainment content, as well as being as a large bit bucket for PC data. As a purveyor of multimedia content, and in particular movies, the DVD-ROM must support not only CGMS and CSS, but also MPEG-2 for video, and AC-3 from Dolby Laboratories for digital audio. Hollywood standardized on these two A/V digital compression schemes for putting their content onto DVD (without them, you never could put a 133 minute movie on a single sided DVD platter.) But just like CSS, running MPEG-2 and AC-3 decoders in special hardware also meant a big extra price tag for PC customers. So, once again, "free" MPEG-2 and AC-3 software decoders were seen as the PC industry's salvation. And, also once again, your PC's CPU is being asked to take a huge performance hit.

If a movie running on a PC DVD-ROM drive is completely decoded via a suite of "free" software decoders, as opposed to being done on specialized chips, then this is what you can reasonably expect, assuming a 200 MHz MMX CPU. A full length movie is typically encoded to fit on one side of a DVD disc, which means the average data transfer rate is 4 to 5 Mbits/sec. That translates into about 24 frames/sec coming off the DVD, and onto your computer screen. But software video-decoding of that DVD (via MPEG-2) at that frame rate will eat up 100% of the MMX CPU's cycles. Should you also be using "free" software decoder for the movie's audio portion (AC-3), then add about another 15% in CPU overhead. If you also want the software to do 3D audio processing, then throw in another 10% CPU overhead. Finally, be sure to add in the CSS software decoder overhead of 10% to 30%. But we aren't done yet. Using interactive branching between scenes, as would be done in training films and games (interactivity, after all, is the whole point of using a DVD on a PC), adds another 5% to 25% CPU overhead, depending upon navigation complexity. Total it up, and what have you got? CPU meltdown. Your PC has been completely buried by DVD overload. Not a pretty sight on your computer screen, except for Intel, who will be glad to sell you ever faster, more expensive CPU's.

Obviously, users' machines must have a complete suite of specialized DVD decoder chips if they are to avoid desktop catatonia. Consequently, PC users will end up buying what are essentially full featured DVD players, like those sold in consumer electronics. Altogether, these specialized decoders will add another $200 to $300 to the price of a PC DVD-ROM drive. Of course, DVD-ROMs can easily be shipped without the costly decoders, so, to achieve low ball pricing in the PC market, some drives will come without the specialty chip sets. But it is unlikely that you will see many such decoder-less DVD-ROMs. These decoders may be the only market differentiator between PC DVDs and non-DVD compliant high capacity optical units. Bottom line: If you want to do other things with your computer besides using it only as a small screen TV, then you must buy an add-in card which has these unique chips. For example, Sigma Designs has announced a PCI to DVD add-in board that sports just a single chip for doing all the MPEG-2 and AC-3 decoding. Their new RealMagic Ventura board costs just $79. Unfortunately, that's for quantity 10,000. As the man said, there's no free lunch.

But where all this gets really strange is that, unlike DVD players for consumers, the DVD-ROM standard does not mandate the exclusive use of MPEG-2 and Dolby's AC-3 for digital audio compression. So, not surprisingly, it turns out that many mass market multimedia DVD developers are preparing instead to use MPEG-1, a format also supported by the MPEG-2 decoder. There are several good reasons for this switch. MPEG-1 decoding is less onerous than MPEG-2 when done in software-only. And when run at high data rates, the VHS tape quality of MPEG-1 video can be improved. Lastly, and most importantly, MPEG-2 encoding sucks up a huge amount of DVD real estate; up to four more times that of MPEG-1. All these factors make for a strong case for using MPEG-1 video on DVD-ROMs. There is also another cute twist on this MPEG scheme. Rather than MPEG-1, a number of multimedia developers are using a special MPEG-2 variant. This variation frees up valuable DVD real estate, but offers just half the horizontal resolution of regular MPEG-2.

And finally, until the day of really cheap ($20) real time MPEG-2 encoders arrive -- which, at the least, is a number of years away -- you still will have to send your multimedia extravaganza out to a specialty firm for the MPEG-2 encoding process. And that trip will set you back upwards of $500,000. Compared to this kilobuck price tag, so what if you can use all your existing software tools to create an interactive DVD production? (And you can use them all, no matter what you may have read elsewhere.)

In sum, if you are dreaming of putting a cheap, huge, super high quality MPEG-2 multimedia distribution on a single DVD-ROM disc, you are in for a rude wake-up call. While MPEG-2 and AC-3 may make for a wonderful DVD-ROM marketing pitch, they both fall way short of PC market reality.

But there's more. In the latter part of 1998, High Definition Digital TVs will be on the market. Even though the DVD makers are loudly proclaiming that DVD players and DVD-ROMs are ""HDTV-ready," what they fail to tell you is that the current 500 line version of DVD (actually, it's 483 lines) only supports the "standard" digital TV resolution of 525 lines -- the true, 1080 line high definition resolution is not supported. And increasingly, it appears that it will be the 1080 line "standard" that wins this other format war between the PC makers and TV broadcasters. Compared to HDTV, your spanking new DVD-ROM will not offer much better resolution than a 425 line laser disc playing on an ancient NTSC analog TV (albeit, the PC's progressive scanning will help, presuming the PC DVD playback herky-jerky issues are resolved).

For DVD players and DVD-ROM drives to support true high definition digital TV, the current format has to be radically redesigned. Today's single layer DVD sports 4.7 GB per side, while a dual layer version offers 8.5 GB per side, and a dual layer, dual sided DVD offers 17 GB capacity. But HDTV DVDs will require 15 GB capacity per side -- the minimum storage requirements for a typical 133 minute movie at true HDTV resolution. The huge increase in DVD capacity needed for the HDTV 1080 line format means a big leap forward is required in DVD laser technology. HDTV DVD's will necessitate scrapping the current red lasers in favor of 400 nanometer or so blue lasers. In addition, the present 4 to 5 megabit/second average data transfer rate of DVD multimedia (which can drop as low as 3.5 megabits/sec) will have to be dramatically upped. At a minimum, 14 megabits/sec is needed if a DVD is to support real HDTV. In sum, when PC DVD-ROMs finally arrive en masse, their highly acclaimed digital video capabilities will already have been eclipsed by HDTV.

In any event, let's say those spiffy new DVD-ROM drives are flying off store shelves in 1998 (at an average street price of about $500 for a fully configured unit). At year's end, even without the specter of HDTV, they will still all be obsolete. For rapidly coming your way are DVD-R (write-once) and DVD-RAM (write/erase) drives. Last year, Toshiba announced that it was well ahead of schedule in releasing a rewritable version of DVD, or DVD-RAM. These new DVD versions, said Toshiba, would be in production come the beginning of 1998. But because the recordable versions of DVD discs have a different reflectivity than read-only DVDs, a DVD-RAM is not backwards compatible with current DVD-ROM drives. Slide a DVD-RAM disc into that barely six months old DVD-ROM drive, and all you will get is a blank screen. Adding insult to injury, the DVD-RAMs will feature fixed rate recording. But those glorious DVD films all use variable bit rate recording to give them that super high gloss look. Standard rate video recording on DVD-RAM will give you just VHS tape quality.

In addition and true to DVD's tortured past, DVD-RAMs are also embroiled in a brutal format war. Sony, Philips, Hewlett Packard and several other supporting companies, have broken ranks with the ten member DVD Forum, which includes Hitachi, Matsushita, Mitsubishi, Philips, Pioneer, Sony, Thomson Multimedia, Time Warner, Toshiba, and Victor Company of Japan. The DVD Forum is tasked with keeping the DVD standards house in order. The original DVD-RAM format called for a disc that could store 2.6GB (about 45% less than a DVD-ROM). Sony and friends claim that not only would their new DVD-RAM format give more capacity, 3 GB, but would supposedly offer better compatibility with existing DVD-ROM drives. They are also claim that their new DVD-RAM devices will transfer the bits off the platters at a faster rate than the 2.6 GB DVD-RAMs. To add insult to injury, this breakaway faction also changed the DVD-RAM moniker, to DVD-RW.

The fractious DVD-RW crowd is proposing a new Phase-Change-Rewritable format. But actually, this DVD-RW design is an extension of existing CD technology. (The rebel group says it accounts for 75% of all CD-R and CD-RW markets.) And, as always, there is much more to this new DVD scheme than meets the screen. Sony and Philips are the co-owners of all the CD patents. If DVD-RW should succeed in the market, then these two giants get to keep on divvying up the CD patent license pie. But if the original DVD-RAM format wins the day, then S & P have to split the patent royalty loot with their arch rivals, like Toshiba and Time Warner. Thus, we are right back to where it all started. Given the huge financial stakes involved in this DVD-RAM fight, and similarly large egos, you can expect this to be long and nasty fight.

All this industry infighting translates into either lengthy delays in shipping DVD-RAMs, or more likely, splintered standards as the "traditional" DVD-RAM vendors begin their product shipments. For example, Toshiba, Hitachi, and Matsushita (Panasonic) presented their respective 2.6 GB DVD-RAM wares at the '97 Fall Comdex. All these drives will be able to read CD-R, CD-ROM, and CDRewriteable volumes, as well as play audio CDs. The blank DVD-RAM discs will cost about $20. Both the Toshiba and Panasonic DVD-RAM drives can pass the data at 1.3 Mbytes/sec, while the Hitachi unit is slightly faster at 1.6 Mbytes/sec. Obviously, none of these three drives will be able to deal with the radically different DVD-RW formats.

One good sign, at least, is that DVD-R so far seems unaffected by all this squabbling. DVD-R is the high capacity equivalent of the 650 MB CD-R disc. The write-once DVD-R can hold 3.95 GB per side. It thus has more capacity, but less recording flexibility, than DVD-RAM. Also unlike a DVD-RAM disc, the DVD-R does not require a protective cartridge when carrying it about. In addition, the DVD-R can sport two recordable sides, yielding a data storage capacity of 7.9 GB, while the DVD-RAM is limited to single sided recording (so far, anyway). Lastly, a DVD-R disc is colored red, as opposed to the blue colored DVD-RAMs. (Who knows what color a DVD-RW will be. Black and blue?). But like DVD-RAMs, DVD-R devices cannot create discs which are readable by any of the current DVD-ROM drives. However, the next generation DVD-ROM units will incorporate a simple piece of inexpensive circuitry that will allow them to read both DVD-RAM and DVD-R discs. And although it's not recordable, let's not forget the brain dead DVX; the let's-just-throw-it-on-the-trash-heap disposable disc format which will most likely not be supported by any of the PC DVD drive makers.

Finally, the issue of DVD construction fragility, no matter what format it comes in, is also a huge problem, and is little discussed. Movie rental stores that have tried renting out DVDs have been discovering that sometimes the most a DVD can be rented out before it becomes unusable is as little as ten times! Now compare this figure with the 60 or more times rental cycle that a VCR tape routinely endures. The greatly increased pit density of a DVD makes the new format very susceptible to fingerprints, smudges, or even the slight scratches that accumulate over time due to casual handling. A scratch on a CD that may play through unnoticed will likely grind a DVD to a halt. Even a fingerprint can bring the whole DVD show to a screaming stop. Another culprit is the DVD packaging. Apparently some folks thought that a CD-style jewel case would work just fine for DVDs. Not so. This de facto standard style of packaging makes it all to easy to scratch or damage the DVD upon its removal or reinsertion. Even way back in 1995, a DVD Packaging Task Force convened to solve this very problem, and came out with a set of DVD carrier guidelines. But unfortunately, no one seemed to have been paying attention. In DVD rental land, expect that the new discs will soon be coming in VCR tape-thick boxes to provide the much needed extra protection. But this still doesn't get around the fact that DVD, as currently constructed, is way more susceptible to minor damage and contaminants than a CD. So, if you expect that a DVD-ROM can be stacked up and tossed around like those CD-ROMs of yours, forgettabout it.

Practically speaking, the most a DVD-RAM, DVD-RW, or DVD-R can do is give you a fat place to store lots of data. But if serious amounts of R/W data storage are all you want in a removable cartridge drive, then save your DVD-etc. money and consider buying a product from the ever growing list of non-DVD alternatives. DVD-RAM and DVD-R are far from being the only high capacity 5.25" optical drives in town. For example, Pinnacle Micro, Inc. has its new Apex 4.6 GB drive. As its name implies, this half height, 5.25", rewritable magneto-optical (MO) drive for desktop computing features a double-sided removable cartridge with 4.6 gigabytes total recording capacity. The Apex has an asynchronous sustained data transfer rate of 4.5 MB/Sec. In comparison, DVD-RAM drives mostly offer a sustained data rate of just 1.3 Mbytes/sec. The Pinnacle device also has an average access time of 21 milliseconds (at 7X speed). An external SCSI-2 Apex unit costs $1495, and additional 4.6 GB cartridges cost $169 each.

Then there is Nikon Optical Storage and its 2.6GB Beluga MO (magneto-optical) R/W drive which incorporates the company's patented LIMDOW (Light Intensity Modulation Direct Overwrite) technology. The Beluga, like the Apex drive, can spill off the data far faster than a DVD-RAM, at 4 Megabytes/sec peak sustained, and has an average seek time of under 24 ms. The Beluga also includes a huge 4 MB cache, so once a file is accessed, you can grab it back nearly instantaneously. A company called Glyph Technologies has entered into an OEM agreement with Nikon, and is selling the Beluga in a rack-based unit. A one drive system costs $3,095, and the dual drive box is $5,795, and both configurations are running off SCSI-3. Lastly, NEC has just announced its 5.2 GB R/W optical drive with its proprietary Multi-Media Video File (MMVF) format.

But if optical R/W storage is still out of focus for you, then there is Iomega' s recently announced Jaz 2 GB, the successor to its 1 GB removable cartridge drive. Far faster than any optical drive, the $649 (external version) 2 GB Jaz has an average sustained data transfer rate of 7.4 Mbytes/Sec, and an average seek time of 10 milliseconds -- squarely in hard drive territory -- with an average write time of 12 milliseconds. When equipped with the standard 512 KB cache, access times go up to between 15.5 and 17.5 milliseconds. Individual 2 GB cartridges cost $169 each, and the new drive will also read the older 1 GB discs. But where there is Iomega, can Syquest be far behind? Already shipping a 1.5 GB removable cartridge unit, you can expect Syquest to come out with its own substantially improved product in the not too distant future. Indeed, Syquest is just now shipping a new 4.7GB cartridge drive, the Quest. And the cost? just $599. Each cartridge costs $199. It's no coincidence that the 4.7 GB capacity is the same as a DVD read-only drive. The battle is on.

Finally, let's not count out those 650 MB CD-R drives. With their recent price drops, and the near ubiquitous of CD-ROM drives, CD-R units will be a major player for some time to come. Moreover, some of the new CD-R units are also CD-R/W, like Ricoh's Media Master product ( see Ricoh review, this issue, in the Speed section).

Any one of these removable storage units are a hefty bit bucket for video, audio, and other types of voluminous data. With these kinds of data troughs to drink out of, why does the PC user need DVD-RAM or DVD-R, and all their stupid politics? You must understand, first and foremost, that the driving force behind DVD was, and always will be, the entertainment industry. Not a PC company was in sight when the DVD format was first promulgated by Sony/Philips and Time Warner/Toshiba. And it's a good bet that if IBM hadn't intervened when it did, these two opposing camps would still be throwing toxic bit buckets at each other.

Once again, we come back to the deeply flawed notion of digital convergence. Convergence, as it is currently spelled out, will require the PC industry to dance to Hollywood's' paranoid tune. This means that any mass consumer medium that can replicate ID4, Lion King, Toy Story, et al, in super high quality digital form will be fought Goofy tooth and Tinkerbell nail. Indeed, symptomatic of this deep-seated paranoia of anything digital is the DVX format, the crypto-scourge kludge from the creative lads in Hollywood. This disposable disc DVD format is incompatible with all current DVD players, and as already noted, won't run on any DVD-ROM drive, either now or probably in the future.

The Malibu Mob Madness will most assuredly slow down the rate of data storage innovation in the PC industry. In fact, some industry pundits have stated that the only reason the DVD-RAM is 2.6 GB and not 4.6 GB per side is that Hollywood does not want users copying full length feature films onto them. Indeed, some companies in the DVD Forum already say the technical hurdles of building 4.6 GB DVD-RAMs are behind them.

In the end, DVD-ROM, DVD-RAM, DVD-RW, and DVD-R may possibly find their respective places on the PC desktop. But if things keep going at this fractious DVD rate, you better get ready to spend a lot of money, over and over again, as the various factions duke it out. If there is any moral to be had from this sad PC DVD story, it's that digital convergence, as long as it's controlled by Hollywood, likely means the death of progressive thinking in the PC market. The DVD saga is a true industry bellwether. The convergence storm flags are flying and the PC buyer better beware.

In the meanwhile, buy a cheap DVD consumer player, hook it into your TV, and repeat along with Jerry Maguire, "Show me the money! Show me the money! Show me the money!"

Copyright 1998, Francis Vale, All Rights Reserved

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