SHANGHAI, China Backers of a Chinese optical disc format are trying to rekindle interest in the technology as an alternative to legacy DVDs and the pricey HD-DVD or Bluray, but internal friction and a rapidly closing window of opportunity are conspiring against its widespread success.
For more than three years, a handful of Chinese companies have been trying to kick start the market for Enhanced Versatile Disc, which is slightly higher in capacity to DVDs and based on proprietary Chinese technology. As an alternative to DVD, backers hoped it would free Chinese manufacturers from IP royalties paid to consortia like the DVD Forum.
But the effort to get EVD out the door has badly stumbled, resulting in few players on retail shelves and a smattering of content incapable of rivaling what's available on DVD. Earlier this month, though, 19 Chinese manufacturers gathered in Beijing to show off about 50 EVD players they said would retail for an average price of $88, about 2.5 times the cost of a basic DVD player. The EVD Alliance said that by 2008, its members would stop producing DVD players, favoring EVD instead.
That immediately caught the attention of chipmakers, who make a tidy profit selling chips to those manufacturers. Phones began to ring, and it turns out "that it wasn't true," said Tim Vehling, senior director of LSI Logic's Consumer Products Marketing division. Soon after, many members of the EVD Alliance made their own statements, setting the record straight.
Haier Electronics, the most aggressive in pursuing the EVD market, estimates its ratio of EVD to DVD players will be 35: 65 by 2008, as demand remains high for DVD in rural areas. Skyworth Digital, which has a dozen EVD models, said about half of its production would be for EVD by 2008.
Most alliance members are waiting to see how the market works out. "We won't run the risk of quitting DVD or HD-DVD only to support a homegrown standard," said Chao Chen, a marketing manager at
Amoi Electronics, which is a member of the EVD Alliance but hasn't started making players yet.
Note: Cai Yan contributed to this story.