Sat, Sep 10, 2005 - Page 10 News List

Homegrown video discs ready for mass market

LOCAL STANDARD At an event promoting the Windows Media Engineering Center, industry insiders said factories will soon start making players based on the FVD format

By Jason Tan  /  STAFF REPORTER

After more than a year of research and development, the first video players based on a locally developed standard for optical information storage are expected to enter mass production by the end of this year, the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI, 工研院) said yesterday.

"Players based on the Forward Video Disc (FVD) standard will be marketed to overseas markets next year," said Huang Der-ray (黃得瑞), deputy general director of the ITRI's Optoelectronics and System Laboratories.

Between 50,000 and 100,000 FVD players will be produced before the end of the year, with shipments expected to surpass 5 million next year, Huang said.

Formed by the ITRI in conjunction with domestic companies, the Taiwan Advanced Optical Storage Research Alliance (前瞻光儲存研發聯盟) initiated the FVD technology to rival global standards such as HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, in a bid to lower domestic companies' royalty burden in manufacturing DVD-related products.

Huang, who is also the alliance's chairman, said that with three new companies recently joining the alliance to develop FVD players and software, the group now comprises 31 members.

He made the remarks on the sidelines of a press conference at which it was announced that Microsoft Corp and the government are pumping NT$107 million into setting up a Windows Media Engineering Center in Microsoft's Taipei offices.

The center, which will start operations next month, will promote development of the FVD standard, as well as related consumer electronics products.

The first-generation FVD, with a capacity of 5.4 to 6 gigabytes, uses a red laser to write information onto the disc and employs Microsoft compression technology -- Windows Media Video-9 -- to allow 135 minutes of high-definition content.

"The support from Microsoft will allow a firmer foundation for the development of the FVD standard in Taiwan and advance the global competitiveness of Taiwanese companies," Huang said.

However, analysts are skeptical about whether the Taiwanese storage technology will take off in the international arena.

"The cooperation between Microsoft and ITRI only has symbolic meaning," said Ken Yu (余文耀), an analyst with SinoPac Securities Corp (建華證券).

He said that in order to be successful, FVD needs the support of Hollywood movie-production firms such as Warner Brothers Pictures or Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, as these multimedia content providers play a large part in determining public acceptance of DVD standards.

As China is also promoting its rival EVD technology, which has a better chance of gaining popularity due to China's large population, Taiwan might be limited by its comparatively smaller population, he said.

Simon Yang (楊勝帆), director of PC industry research at Topology Research Institute (拓墣產業研究所), said he does not see a niche or competitive advantage for the technology, although the royalty savings brought about by using FVD technology will be the main advantage for now.

However, if Microsoft's Digital Home concept, which is still in an early stage, gains popularity among consumers in the future, the FVD standard might be able to benefit from it, Yang said.

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