> The spectre of a bitter standards war in the emerging DVD market was raised last week when Sony broke away from a technology agreement with fellow DVD manufacturers.
Sony has astonished its partners by proposing its own format for DVD-RAM, the recordable version of the high-capacity DVD disk which is likely to be positioned as a PC storage device, perhaps eventually forming an alternative to conventional hard drives.
Sony made its move despite its membership of the DVD Forum, an 11-company alliance set up two years ago to forge standards in the area, and its agreement on a DVD-RAM standard with the rest of the group in April.
The standard agreed in April was due to receive formal ratification at a meeting of the European Computer Manufacturers Association in Kobe, Japan, this week.
Philips and Hewlett-Packard also signalled their support for Sony's move, though other former partners such as Toshiba and Matsushita professed surprise at Sony's actions. Sony and Philips originally pioneered a rival DVD standard against that of Toshiba and Matsushita in 1995, and lost.
A spokeswoman for Philips said the three break away companies would not make any comment on their proposals until later this week, when a formal statement will be issued. "All we can confirm is that we do have an alternative proposal which is as yet unnamed," she said.
The spokeswoman maintained that this alternative will offer greater capacity than standard DVD disks, with 3Gb of storage rather than 2.6Gb.
Following Sony's announcement, NEC joined the fray by announcing plans to unveil a further form of DVD-RAM, which would adhere neither to Sony's standard nor that of the DVD Forum. NEC's product will not arrive until late 1998, however.
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