The Ministry of Information Industry (MII) will issue the industrial standard for the home-developed EVD (enhanced versatile disc), a next-generation disc format that will hopefully replace the currently popular DVD (digital versatile disc), in November.
The launching of such a standard signals that China, for the first time, establishes what is expected to help domestic disc player manufacturers shake off their previous dependence on foreign technologies in production, experts said.
"As far as I know, the MII will issue the standard next month," said Zhang Yijun, deputy chief engineer of the Shanghai-based SVA Group.
"We are quite confident in the next-generation digital disc technology, where we will possess our own intellectual property," he said.
While being chosen as a testing base for the EVD technology, SVA has been actively involved in the development of some core components in the new technology, according to Zhang.
SVA is part of a fledgling Chinese digital disc technology alliance -- initiated by the MII -- that involves more than 10 domestic enterprises and research institutions in the industry, including a majority of China's disc player producers.
Operating under a corporate entity called the Beijing E-World Digital Technology Co Ltd, the alliance has been engaged in EVD technology development since 1999.
While the national standard of EVDs is in the near future, the new disc format is currently under the scrutiny of related global industry organizations before it will be accepted as an international technical standard, Zhang said.
He revealed that a large amount of homemade EVD chips are now available as core parts of EVD players that are expected to supply the domestic market from next year.
EVD player prices will be set around 2,000 yuan (US$240), compared with around 700 yuan (US$85) for the average cost of a domestic DVD player.
Talks with domestic and overseas filmmakers and other video program producers are under way regarding the market supplies of programs stored in the EVD format, Zhang said.
Players powered by EVD technology are expected to offer as much as five times the quality of image definition compared with DVD players that dominate the market at present, and that is EVD's biggest advantage over DVD technology, according to experts.
As it gradually matures, the technology will enable EVD players to become a platform with various multimedia functions in the future.
In that respect, EVDs will hopefully turn out to be a next-generation digital disc format choice for domestic manufacturers, whose products account for up to 70 percent of the world market.
China produced over 30 million DVD players in 2002 -- almost doubling the figure in 2001 -- and nearly 20 million units were exported last year.
For those manufacturers, the domestic DVD player market has, after six years of growth, entered a bottleneck where many competitors have to resort to price wars to take on their rivals. Even worse is that they have to pay hefty sums in royalties each year for the foreign technology patent applied in their products.
The appearance of EVDs is regarded by some as a challenge to the "Blue Ray," a next-generation disc technology, which is being jointly developed by a number of global electronics companies like Sony, Samsung and Philips.
"It (EVD technology) is a landmark achievement for us... we believe it will find its position on the domestic market," said Ding Kangyuan, vice-director of Disc Industry Promotion Committee of China (DICC) under the China Audio Industries Association (CAIA).
Ding attributed predicted market acceptance to the quickly growing domestic high-end color TV market, especially in the high definition television (HDTV) segment, which calls for complementary disc-playing equipment like EVDs.
Ding predicted that Blue Ray technology will not form its large-scale application within the next three years. If the software sources of EVDs or video programs stored in the EVD format can be guaranteed, the players will very likely first enter the high-end domestic market segment where consumers can afford costly display products like HDTV.
A number of DICC member companies, mainly current domestic DVD player producers, have been paying close attention to the EVD technology's progress, according to Ding.
"After all, it's our own technology," he said.
Analysts, however, have pointed out that it is hard to say whether EVD technology will be quickly accepted on a global basis, even though it may find its niche in the vast Chinese market.
And as future EVD players are supposed to be compatible in terms of functions to current DVD players, domestic manufacturers will still have to pay royalties on DVD technology patents owned by foreign firms.
(China Daily October 28, 2003)