The next wave in an industry of new waves, DVD technology offers users the highest digital quality ever produced for home entertainment. The problem is the cost - the system like the one pictured here costs is 396,000 Sk.
photo: Courtesy of Softmedia
But according to computer software company Softmedia Bratislava, foreigners like Barta may never see their VCR dreams realised in Slovakia. A new product known as DVD video, Softmedia representatives say, is set to replace VCR technology on the market and "kill off" videos as a form of home entertainment.
"DVD is the next logical step in optical magnetic data storage. It's like a CD on steroids," said Daniel Oostra, Softmedia's DVD sales and marketing manager. "Whereas a CD disk has 654 megabytes of storage, one DVD has 17 gigabytes of storage [1 gigabyte = 1,024 megabytes]. One DVD disc has enough capacity for two and a half billion six-letter words."
"Imagine this," he continued, "The entire text version of every story written in the history of National Geographic magazine has been put onto one DVD disc."
Roman Karaba, managing director of Softmedia, said that DVD technology had a wide variety of applications, from education to entertainment, and could be harnessed to both computers, stereos and television sets. As a result, he explained, VCR's would never enjoy the same market share in Slovakia that they had elsewhere.
"VCR is dead," he pronounced. "The VCR step in [home entertainment] technology will be bypassed, and the laser disk will never appear in Slovakia. They came at the wrong time, a time when nobody had any money. As a result, they will soon become obsolete, and the technology will jump directly to DVD."
Softmedia is the exclusive Slovak producer of DVD technology.
What is DVD?
Digital Versatile Disc (DVD) technology is, apart from being the "next step", broken into two areas, explained Karaba: video and PC applications. "DVD video is simple to use because the content guides you, the quality is higher, it is multi-functional and data is easily accessible. In terms of PC applications, the future is in DVD because it allows for quality information and access to 'real time' information coming from the web."
Oostra spelled out the pros and cons of his firm's product in even simpler terms. "The advantages are that DVD has larger storage in a smaller space, it is faster, convenient, simple, it has the highest video quality offered for home use, and it is interactive, meaning that it contains menus, multi-angle views, eight different language tracks and the capacity for 31 different language sub-titles."
As for the disadvantages, said Oostra, "there are basically two. The first is that it is a physical disc with larger storage and scratches happen. When a DVD disc gets scratched, more data is lost. I'd have to say that the second disadvantage is the cost. DVD is expensive right now, but it will drop. All technology is more expensive when first introduced."
Other computer market insiders agree that DVD is the next logical upgrade step for owners of both PC and home entertainment systems. Stanislav Molčan, sales director for Internet provider Global Network Services, stated that DVD is better than CD because "DVD is compatible with CD-ROM, but not vice-versa. Also, DVD has 10 to 20 times the capacity of a CD while offering higher digital quality."
Conditions for growth
Advocates of DVD technology believe that two obstacles are preventing it from taking the Slovak market by storm: price and the availability of titles.
"The prices are just too high right now," said Molčan.
List prices for a DVD player is 60,000 Sk ($1,600), although it is currently on sale at Softmedia for 31,990. A Pioneer home theatre system, which is "advised but not necessary," according to Softmedia sales rep Marianna Fuseková, goes for a cool 187,000 Sk - on sale.
"DVD was introduced onto the US market in 1997 and into Slovakia in late 1998," Oostra said. "Prices in the US are lower right now because it has been around longer there. In time, though, prices will come down in Europe as well."
Karaba also noted that prices must first fall before sales can be expected to rise, but added that a lack of titles was an especially frustrating obstacle to DVD growth.
"Right now, the lack of titles is keeping sales down," he complained. "We really have a big problem convincing publishers [to issue more on DVD]. They say, 'Who will pay for these? Nobody has DVD systems.' Well, this is a very stupid question. DVD sales cannot increase until customers have access to and can purchase movies, music and computer programmes [on DVD]."
Softmedia carries 65 film titles and five music titles. "This is the complete range that is offered in Slovakia," said Fuseková. Films range between 700 and 1,500 Sk, while music is between 1,100 and 1,750 Sk.
Complaints aside, Softmedia insists that DVD's popularity will increase, particularly among the younger generations. "Within the next five years, DVD will be a common household product in Slovakia," Karaba predicted. "People will go for it, especially the younger generations between the ages of 20 and 45. They will go for it because of its quality and versatility. All PC upgrades will go to DVD as well."
Molčan was even more bullish, predicting that DVD would not simply increase in popularity, it would dominate the market within two or three years. "You simply won't be able to buy CD. Within two or three years, everyone will begin supporting [DVD] because of its capacity and speed. In an industry of next steps, this is the next step. Others will follow, but this is the nearest future."
21. Feb 1999 at 0:00 | Chris Togneri