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China EVD backers to reignite interest

Posted: 13 Nov 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Enhanced Versatile Disc? EVD? DVD? Cai Yan?

Major DVD player manufacturers in China, including Haier, Skyworth and TCL, say they will increase their focus on the nation's domestic optical disc format.

That's a big jump from a month ago, when only one company was actively promoting the Enhanced Versatile Disc (EVD) standard. Supporters of EVD say anywhere from half a million to a million EVD players could ship this year, adding to the roughly 700,000 in the market. That compares to about 20 million DVD players that are annually sold in China, according to iSuppli Corp.

Despite EVD's small base, backers believe it will quickly overtake DVD in China. "DVD hasn't had new technology for quite a few years, so the price of current DVD players has dropped to $25 to $35. The manufacturers almost have no profits," said Lei Jing, spokesman of Antaeus Corp., one of EVD's major investors.

In fact, the DVD Forum recently proposed a China-only format for HD-DVD. Whether it will be quickly adopted is still uncertain.

Beijing E-World, the developer of EVD, thinks that demand will soar for EVD players next year. But backers have been overly optimistic in the past. For example, they said 1.8 million EVD players would be sold in 2004, but that didn't pan out. So such rapid success may be unrealistic. "For now, only one chip company provides EVD chips, which makes products from different manufacturers quite similar. Thus the EVD makers will unavoidably have to compete by lowering price," said Horse Liu, an analyst at iSuppli.

China originally backed EVD as a standard so that local DVD manufacturers would not have to pay royalties to the DVD Forum. But the standard hasn't had much success yet, in part because there isn't that much content available. Antaeus, the only EVD disc maker, only has about 100 movie titles. As a result, almost all of the EVD players can play DVDs so manufacturers are still liable for royalty payments.

Two weeks ago, over 40 Chinese companies jointly established the EVD Alliance to rival the HD DVD format that DVD Forum recently released for the Chinese market. But since EVD's disc capacity is similar to DVDs, it's hard to compare it to HD-DVD.

EVD uses MPEG-2 Main-Profile at High-Level for encoding and standard red lasers to read high-definition content, which is secured using proprietary encryption. It also uses a proprietary audio technology to support six-channel audio.

To boost its capacity, the EVD camp has partnered with a British company, New Medium Enterprise. Its technology is supposed to help EVD disks pack up to 10 layers that store 5Gbytes each. New Medium claims to have disks capable of 20- to 30Gbytes of storage for its high-definition, 1,080 line players.

A large scale EVD exhibition for about 30 new systems will be held in early December. By then, alliance members said they will have more competitive pricing on EVD players, so they can compete against ultra low-cost DVD players. The current price of an EVD player is about $88, about 2.5 times the cost of a basic DVD player.

- Cai Yan
EE Times

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