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Firms Say out with DVDs, Time for EVDs
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Nearly 20 leading Chinese manufacturers will stop making DVD players from 2008, replacing them with EVD (Enhanced Versatile Disc) players, the next-generation players based on a Chinese home-grown standard.

The companies involved, including Shinco, Amoi, Hisense and TCL, will make a joint announcement of the ban next Wednesday, said Zhang Baoquan, chairman of Antaeus Group and secretary-general of the EVD Industry Alliance, which is dedicated to promoting the EVD standard.

Ending production of DVD players and pumping up EVD production will help the new standard succeed in the marketplace, Zhang said.

All firms involved are members of the EVD Industry Alliance. Antaeus is a real estate developer that has thrown its weight behind EVD in recent years.

EVD will be competing with HD-DVD and Blue-ray standards as DVD technology fades out.

Producing HD-DVD and Blue-ray products, mainly supported by companies in the United States and Japan, would mean high copyright fees for Chinese manufacturers.

The Chinese Government has been backing the EVD standard to try and reduce the country's reliance on foreign technology. Chinese DVD player manufacturers already pay a significant amount of licensing fees to foreign patent holders each year.

EVD in the past year has lacked industry-wide support, with few films being produced in the new standard.

Zhang revealed that Antaeus will announce next Wednesday a joint venture with major TV and film distributors including Zoke Culture Group and China International Television Corporation to enrich EVD-based offerings.

Antaeus will have a controlling stake in the joint venture.

"We are seeking more support from publishers and distributors, including those in Hollywood," Zhang said.

Most EVD players will be able to play DVD discs. But buyers of the machines will most likely want to buy EVD formatted films to take advantage of the new technology, Zhang said.

Chinese manufacturers will display more than 50 models of EVD players next Wednesday, with an average selling price of 700 yuan (US$89) per unit.

"That price is roughly the same as the average price of a DVD player, which could spur the up take of EVD players in China," Zhang said.

The EVD Industry Alliance will soon offer a service that lets owners of EVD players copy digital formats of films based on the standard from a special vending machine. Consumers could put the films on their portable hard disks under a "copy-as-you-pay" model and play them on their EVD player.

Film production houses and distributors can share the revenues from charging consumers for copying. An encryption technology could limit play to one EVD player, which would help stop piracy.

Despite the Chinese Government's increasing crackdown, piracy remains a headache for Hollywood film producers.

Zhang said the EVD Industry Alliance will have 800 franchised outlets selling EVD discs by next Wednesday with hopes of raising that number to 1,200 by the year's end. Gome, China's largest consumer electronics retailer, also a member of the EVD Industry Alliance, will open 150 special areas in its shops around the country to sell EVD players.

(China Daily November 29, 2006)

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