MS Pushes Standardized DVD Writing for Longhorn

With Longhorn set to enter beta testing next year, Microsoft has begun to make plans for supporting new hardware technologies in the upcoming version of Windows. At the top of the list is the inclusion of native DVD write capabilities, with floppy-like drag and drop writing support. But multiple non-interchangeable DVD formats may lead Microsoft to back a single technology and force manufacturers to reach a consensus on standards.

Writable DVDs are beginning to catch on for backup purposes, transfer of multi-gigabyte files, storing video from a camcorder and other areas where CDs do not provide enough space. And as prices continue to drop, many computers are shipping with the new drives. However, disagreements between industry leaders have led companies to back different formats and thus fragment the growing consumer market.

Apple, Pioneer, Samsung and Hitachi are among the group making up the DVD Forum, which is pushing the DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD-RAM formats. On the other end of the spectrum is Phillips, Sony, Dell and Compaq who advocate the DVD+R and DVD+RW formats that they claim are technically superior to their rivals. And from Microsoft's perspective, they may be right.

Microsoft is placing its money on Mount Rainier, a new technology that enables native operating system support of data storage on optical media. Mt. Rainier allows for transparent formatting of media and full drag and drop writing support, providing for the first true floppy replacement. At this point, only DVD+R/RW drives feature such capability.

While packet writing applications are currently available to enable drag and drop on CDs and DVDs, they require the media to first be formatted - a rather tedious process. Mt. Rainier also supports writing in 2K chunks as opposed to 32K in DVD-R/RW, which makes for greater space efficiency and better defect management.

Redmond has posted a call to action recommending all DVD manufacturers support Mt. Rainier, and this week also hosted an event designed to encourage development of Mt. Rainier solutions.

Microsoft will still base the "Designed for Windows" logo program on industry standards including DVD-R/RW and DVD-RAM, but consumers will likely have a better experience with DVD+R/RW if native kernel-level support does ship with Longhorn in 2004.

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